D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
12-Step Torah Parashat Pinchas 5780
Nothing changes if nothing changes
For some change can be scary and unwelcome, while others welcome change with open arms. But even if we want to change or know we need to change, fear of the unknown can result in hanging on to the status quo no matter how bad it might be for us. Remember those pesky Israelites who with the memory of slavery still fresh in their minds, longed to go back to Egypt-- where they could eat their fill of bread (Ex. 15:3)? As the old saying goes-- better the devil we know than the devil we don’t.
In this week’s Torah portion Pinchas in the Book of Numbers, five gutsy sisters -- Zelophehad’s daughters Mahlah, Noa, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah--challenge the laws of inheritance after their father dies leaving no sons. They could have settled for the status quo which did not allow them to inherit their father’s land and reconciled themselves with the notion their father’s lineage would be lost just because he had no sons. Instead, they saw an opportunity to change their lives and the lives of other women. Pleading with Moses who then pleaded with God, a new inheritance law was instituted benefiting daughters in cases where there were no sons.
אִ֣ישׁ כִּֽי־יָמ֗וּת וּבֵן֙ אֵ֣ין ל֔וֹ וְהַֽעֲבַרְתֶּ֥ם אֶת־נַֽחֲלָת֖וֹ לְבִתּֽוֹ:
If a householder dies without leaving a son, you shall transfer his property to his daughter (Num. 27:8)
Even when motivated by economics or the desire to get our lives back on track, change is hard because it takes us out of our comfort zone. But, as the example of Zelophehad’s daughters suggests, change is possible when we are able to move beyond our comfort zone and do what is necessary to implement that change. On the other hand, if we can’t or won’t do what is necessary then nothing changes if nothing changes.
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