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    All those daughters – Mass’ei

    The daughters of Tz'lof'chad, illustration from a 1908 bible

    The sidra ends with the story of Tz’lof’chad’s daughters.

    A family with daughters and no sons – what a perplexing problem in a world in which the dynamics of life rest with the males and the females are left with a deep sense of deprivation.

    But to understand the male-female divide in this way is not our only option.

    There is a major essay by Rav Aaron Soloveitchik, “The Attitude of Judaism Toward the Woman”, in which he points out that though we all think that the man has the all-important task of kibbush, conquest, the subtler victories of “purity, sanctity, beauty, love and reverence… salvation, bliss and eternity… all that was done through a woman”.

    Man, says Rav Aaron, needs extra commandments in order to discipline and direct his aggressive energies, whilst “a woman’s natural make-up is in accordance with the Divine Attributes of compassion, tolerance and grace, and also in accordance with the spiritual and moral trend of humanity in the Messianic era…

    “The Hebrew equivalent for compassion is rachmanut, which is derived from the term rechem, meaning a woman’s womb. Compassion is an innate quality in the woman.”

    In the light of this argument one might justly conclude that it is the family that has only sons and no daughters which is really deprived…

    One might also ask the historians to re-assess the way they tell Jewish history and say much more about women’s contribution to the unfolding events and trends of the narrative.

    We hear a great deal about Beruriah and the way she guided her husband and community. Surely we had many more Beruriahs. The story is one-sided without them.

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