Monday, July 17, 2006

B'not Tzlophchad: A radical feminist claim and Poor Divrei Torah

[This is a week late, but the message is still important.]

At the end of Parshat Pinchas we read about B'not Tzlophchad who ask, "Why should we be left out" Lama Negara? Because our father died and left no sons. So what is the overall message of the story of B'not Tzlophchad? Is it a radical feminist ideology hidden within the text or a claim that those who feel outside of B'nai Yisrael should be included?

Rav Menachem Schrader believes the overall message of this story is that a superhuman effort should be made to make those who feel excluded from B'nai Yisrael to feel included. Consideration is made for these daughters, we understood the pickle that they were in and Moshe decided that he had to go up the lader and find out what could be done. This is how we should treat those Jews who feel marginalized, understand them and try to find a kula. We should not, Rav Schrader warns, perform halachic summersaults when we cannot - Halacha can only be stretched so far.

This same story is used by some to show a radical feminist ideology in the Torah. A careful reading of the text shows that their wish is not "The Torah's laws are unjust and women also should inherit", but rather "Our father should have a right to inherit, and because daughters cannot inherit, he has no representation in Eretz Yisrael". Their point is not that they should inherit, but our righteous and holy father should not be excluded from the people.

This also brings me to point out this d'var torah on MyJewishLearning.com - a website that could be a great resource but tries to be to much and fails at all of it. The d'var torah isn't so much the feminist ideology, but rather just a poor d'var torah. Instead of trying to grapple with the message of the text the parsha of B'not Tzlophchad is hijacked by their idea into something that it's not. Divrei Torah should try to understand what the text is saying not making the text say what we wish it to it is false scholarship.

3 comments:

seen it said...

What is "radical feminism", other than a straw hat you make women wear when you dont want to bother dealing with their "feelings of exclusion"?

Natan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Natan said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_feminism

The point of the post is that we must engage everyone including the radical feminists and deal with their feelins of exclusion. At the same time we cannot break Halacha to do it. Moshe Rabeinu knew just that, we cannot exclude people from B'nai Yisrael, so he asked God for help.

The comment about Radical feminism in the post was regarding misinterpreting the story of B'not Tzlophchad to fit their agenda. Hence the poor Divrei Torah part of the title.