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“Belonging” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

July 22, 2022 | 23 Tamuz 5782

Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings as we move toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast here.

It was time to divide the land. Though the Israelites remained in the wilderness and had not yet arrived to their ultimate destination, God wanted Moses to assess and register the descendants of the Israelites who came out of the land of Egypt. (Numbers 26:4)

With meticulous precision, Moses named the tribes and enrolled those 20 and above able to bear arms, numbering and counting them as he went along. He took careful note of the size of the tribe. This would help determine the amount of land apportioned as shares to each group, whether for larger or smaller groups. (26:56)

It seemed like a logical plan unless you were female and had no father to receive such an inheritance.

Enter the daughters of a man named Zelophehad who had died in the wilderness. Each had a name: Mahlah, Noa, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. They were not merely the female offspring of this deceased man. The Torah tells us their name as a way to pay attention to their plea.

Let not our father’s name be lost to his clan just because he had no son! Give us a holding among our father’s kinsmen! (27:4)

Moses immediately brought the case before the Eternal who passed this judgment:

The plea of Zelophehad’s daughters is just; you should give them a hereditary holding among their father’s kinsmen; transfer their father’s share to them. (27:6)

Moses turned the question over to God whose decision came quickly. They could have excluded these women. They could have found reason to prevent the participation in the apportioning of land. Instead, they said, “yes.” You are included here. You do belong here.

This was an act of loving kindness to set the course for the Israelites as they continued their trek toward the land of great promise. Community means finding ways to include and make sure every belongs.

Edwin Markham, an early 20th century American poet wrote:

He drew a circle that shut me out —

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But Love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle to take him in!

Whether in the Torah or in the pages of history or at the doors to our synagogue, how we welcome, where we set our boundaries, and what we do with the eternal power of love continues to matter.

(originally shared July 6, 2018)

Shabbat Shalom

I remain grateful for your comments and reflections and look forward to corresponding regarding your responses. Connect with me here.

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