Torah Study Notes 7-11-15

July 11, 2015

Classes are led by Rabbi Leah Berkowitz who is referred to herein as “RB.

p. 1078

We will be talking today about “chutzpah” or audacity – sometimes referred to in a negative context. It could be termed a form of Interpersonal menchlekeit; the willingness to step out of your assigned space to do what needs to be done – a holy chutzpah. Who do we admire for his or her chutzpah? It can have different implications from Donald Trump to MLK. This is a mussar concept of cultivating traits in a way to achieve an appropriate balance – like a level with the bubble in the middle.

Read text from handout (reproduced below) re understanding humility in terms of the space you occupy. Note also the Midrash commentary.

27:1 The daughters of Zelophehad here step out of their allotted space. AF: This is analogous to a realm of responsibility. “Give us a holdings among our fathers kinsman…” This is the land being assigned by God to each of the clans. Note that land cannot be permanently alienated. The chronology of generations recited here does not bear close scrutiny. A problem posed is that of marriage – at which time the land would usually pass to that other clam. Recall Monty Python and The Holy Grail “She has huge tracts of land!.” Having the land would constitute a dowry and make the daughters more attractive to suitors. Moses has to decide this application.

27: 5 He takes the question to God who rules in favor of the daughters. A general rule is established as to the descent of property and who should inherit. RL: Will the same rules laid out for men apply to woman?  RB: The rules don’t just apply to men. They set out the lands for the tribes without reference to sex.  AF: How does primogeniture work when the oldest son is physically or mentally unfit? RB: The Tanach is not kind to people with disabilities – they cannot be priests for example. JB: Is this unusual that Moses has gone to God rather than vice-versa? RB: There are three other instances where this has happened – see handout. LL: Note that we should not equate slavery and land ownership in Egypt with that in the South in America. There were substantive differences. Here, the women have established a legal precedent. Note that many of the practices in Genesis are rejected or undermined in Numbers and Deuteronomy.  ZA: The Orthodox tend to skip over this section.  Also, children were considered a financial asset – until the past few hundred years. We will see that they are subsequently required to marry within the clan – so that the tribe would retain the land.

Closing prayer is sung.

Rabbi Berkowitz

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