The Daughters of Zelophehad: Power and Uniqueness

Zelophehad's daughters call to us to take hold of life with our own hands.

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After all, nothing is more sacred than life itself and the fight for what we believe is worthy. Thus, this parashah inspires us to discover that we too have the ability to know what is right for ourselves and what our rights ought to be. When we believe in our capacity to shape our history, to the point of being able to change even a law that came from the Revelation at Sinai, then we pay a tribute to Zelophehad's daughters.

In our era, we can see this legacy in women such as Judith Eisenstein, who was the first to become a bat mitzvah in 1922, and in the first women ordained as rabbis: Regina Jonas (in 1935), Sally Priesand (Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1973), Sandy Sasso (Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1974), and Amy Eilberg (Jewish Theological Seminary in 1985). Like Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah, they and the many other courageous women who followed in their footsteps came forth and opened the future for all women seeking to reclaim their Jewish inheritance in new and powerful ways.

The product of fourteen years of work and the contributions of more than 100 scholars, theologians, poets, and rabbis all of them women The Torah: A Women's Commentary is a landmark achievement in biblical scholarship and an essential resource for the study of the Bible. For more information or to order a copy, visit URJBooksandMusic.com.

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Rabbi Silvina Chemen serves Kehilat Beth El, the first Conservative congregation in Latin America, and she is in charge of the Schlichei Tzibur School, a national program of the Argentine Jewish Communities Association.