Saturday, June 29, 2013

Thoughts on the Torah portion/parashah Pinchas that emerged during our worship this weekend in light of this week’s Supreme Court Decisions and other legislative developments around the country – June 29, 2013

·     The daughters of Tzelophchad came forward to assert their rights of inheritance after their father died. Given that they had no brothers, they were, at first, denied that right to be their father’s heirs.  They realized that, if they didn’t speak up, no one else was going to advocate for them.  Their plea was called just and they were granted their rights.   Their confident approach serves as a powerful reminder to stand up for what we believe, and to continue taking that stand openly and bravely.  Rights are not gained and/or preserved without vigilance, even when societal sea changes may make it seem that the tide has turned too far to realize one’s goal.  This effort is not only about rights.  It is about being a responsible citizen, which may entail reminding fellow citizens that what you want will not take anything away from them.
·     Moses asked God to appoint a new leader for the Israelites so that the people would not be as “sheep without a shepherd.”  In our Shabbat morning discussion, we suggested that “sheep” might signify those who blindly follow the positions of others, or, it might also refer to people who take their own positions only after weighing various perspectives and viewpoints.  We agreed that the most important aspect of being a “sheep” or a “shepherd” is having the ability to question, to contemplate, to consider, and to gradually develop a personal stance on an issue.   We should express ourselves using our own words, not simply repeating what we heard on the radio or television or read in social media.   

·     Our translation from the Jewish Publication Society (in The Torah: A Modern Commentary Revised Edition from the URJ Press) translated the word TZIVITA, which usually means “command,” as “commission.”   We wondered if this might be related to the role that Joshua, Moses’ successor, would fulfill as a military commander.  We noted that the word also refers to a particular mission of a nation, people or faith group.   What I would hope, after this week, is that we find ways to come together in developing a mission in which many people can share, even when there is disagreement.   Perhaps that mission could include considering all human beings as created in the divine image and allowing laws to bend enough to treat others with dignity and respect.   I would not expect this only of the nine justices serving on the Supreme Court, or state or national senators and representatives.   It is up to each of us.   May we follow such a path with a generosity of spirit and an acknowledgement of the Oneness that ultimately unites us all. 

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