The Daughters of Tzlofchad
As are all of the stories in Torah, the story of the Daughters of Tzlofchad (whose name literally means ‘shadow of fear’), is a truth occurring in every generation, repeating itself in this or that configuration, but being a constant.
Even so great a figure as Moshe Rebeinu was not, of his own accord and initiative, sensitive to the plight of the Daughters of Tzlofchad. He did not turn to HaShem with a plea for their welfare.
However, when the Daughters of Tzlofchad were brave enough to act despite the shadow of fear under which women live in male-dominated cultures and exerted their right to an inheritance not only did Moshe see the merit of their plea at once, astoundingly; HaShem not only acquiesced to their wisdom, HaShem created what appeared to be a new precedent in Torah, but which was actually always written in Torah.
7 ‘The daughters of Tzlofchad speak truly: you shall surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father’s brethren; and you shall cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them.
8 And you shall speak unto the children of Israel, saying: If a man die, and have no son, then you shall pass his inheritance unto his daughter.
9 And if he have no daughter, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his brethren. – Numbers 27
This is the Way of Torah. Understand this! Women actually activate the revelation of the deepest and truest and most just interpretations of Torah, but if and only if we exert our rights. If we do not Torah seems to read as though the Law discriminates against women. It does not. The truths relating to women in Torah are the deepest truths and the most just. But we must assert our rights to the revelation of those depths.
It must be understand what the Hebrew concept ‘nachalah’, rendered imperfectly and partially into English as ‘inheritance’ means. It is not only a right to a parcel of land. The Torah itself is the ground from which Humanity is created. To have a ‘nachalah’ in Torah is to have a portion in Torah – to have a presence in Torah and to have one leave one’s mark on creation by having interpreted Torah.
If we understand that Torah is what is best described in modern parlance as a ‘fractal’ and a ‘hologram’, it is understood that a portion in any part of Torah is a portion in all of Torah and a portion in Torah is a portion in the Creation itself – in all of creation.
Why HaShem has only granted this right to women if we overcome our natural reticence and assert our right to learn Torah and have a full portion in it is a wisdom beyond my ken, but I do know that this is the case and is a constant in every generation. With that, the precedent has already been written in Torah, plainly and without the need for gematriot to reveal it. This means that women are entitled to a portion in learning Torah, interpreting it and thereby making their mark on the entire creation.
Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat