The Torah portion, or parasha, this week is Pinchas and is found in Numbers 25:10-30:1. In this passage, we have two primary stories. In the first, Midianite women have entered the Israelite community to encourage the men to engage in idol worship and related sexual practices. God responds by sending a plague upon the people. Pinchas, the grandson of Aaron, stops the plague by executing an Israelite man engaged in a sexual act publicly with a Midianite woman. Pinchas then receives a divine reward – a hereditary priesthood and permanent “covenant of peace” – in recognition of his zeal. In the second story, five sisters, the daughters of a man named Zelophehad, approach Moses and the other leaders. They explain that their father died without sons, and they want to claim his share of the land instead of this land going to a male relative. Moses asks God what to do, and God tells him that the women have made a just claim. Moreover, from that point on, whenever a man dies without a son, his property shall be inherited by his daughters. If there is no daughter, then the property will be inherited by other male relatives.
We learn two points from this parasha. In the first story, Pinchas takes a bold step to make a public statement about immoral conduct that was leading people away from God. Although Pinchas caused the death of two individuals, he prevented the deaths of others who would have otherwise died from the plague. In the second story, during a time when women had fewer rights than men, the daughters took a bold step. They were rewarded by not only getting a share of their father’s land, but by being able to pass the property on to their sons and ensuring their family line. They also paved the way for future developments in women’s rights. This week, as we encounter different situations, may this inspire us to think about what principles are important for us to stand for, and may we have the courage to stand for them.