Whovians and Women – Mattot-Massei 5777
Whovians & Women
As a ‘Whovian’ I was disappointed with this week’s news that the 14th Doctor would be a woman! And no, not because I’m sexist, but because I am disappointed that it was such news. If the Doctor can regenerate, can travel through space and time, if he can defeat an entire army of Daleks with nothing more than a screwdriver, sonic or not, then what is the big deal if he is a she? I know that this might identify me as a traitor, I will most probably be accused of not being a real Whovian, but those that have an issue with it have totally missed the whole concept of being a Time Lord.
And what greater example of a Time Lord than to pick up on something that began in last week’s Sedra, and then crosses over to the end of the 2nd of this week’s! Last week’s Sedra Pinchas, presents us with the issue of women inheriting. The original Halacha was that a daughter does not inherit her father’s portion in the Land of Israel. Along came the five daughters of Tzelafchad; Machla, Noah, Choglah, Milkah and Tirzah who complained that they were losing out. Their father had passed away a number of years earlier, although not due to being part of the Sin of the Spies, and his rightful inheritance in the Land of Israel was being lost simply because he had no sons. Their complaint is heard and the Halacha was changed to allow a daughter to inherit as well. There remained a caveat that she had to marry within her father’s Tribe so as to ensure that the property remained within that Tribe and not get swallowed up by another. But the Halacha was now changed.
Why though wasn’t it ‘correct and just’ to begin with? Surely Hashem knew what was right! Why was it necessary to manufacture the situation? We can’t just say that Hashem was offering us ‘free choice’, for if so why specifically this case and not any other?
I would like to suggest that this was the litmus test of the Jewish Nation, a young People who were about to enter into their Ancestral and Holy Land. How would they treat those people within society who by nature might be at a disadvantage? Helping out the stranger and the disabled, that is a profoundly Jewish trait, but it is also what is expected. How though were we going to deal with those whose disadvantage was not as blatant and obvious? And how do we deal with those who refuse to go quietly into the night, with those who don’t simply sulk away and nurse their grievances but without actually doing anything about it?
This was our test and we passed it. The daughters of Tzelafchad passed their test when they refused to simply accept the status quo. They taught a valuable lesson to Jewish women throughout our history; stand up and fight for what you believe in. And secondly, we as a Nation learnt our lesson, listen to our women and ensure that they too receive their fair share. It would have been all too easy for Hashem to write that law in the first place, but then we would never have gone on the journey of discovery and learnt that lesson. How fitting it is then, that the next Sedra (the start of this week’s double) records all of our journeys through the desert to get to the Land of Israel. The literal journey was not complete until we had gone along the spiritual and intellectual journey that culminated in equality for all. The final Halacha at the end of the double Mattot-Massei then records the actuality, that the five sisters did indeed inherit the land. This was no theoretical exercise, but also came to a real conclusion.
So yes, as a Whovian I was disappointed, but not because the Doctor was now a woman, but because the BBC made such a deal out of it. Or maybe it was just a cost cutting exercise by the BBC, since as we now all know, their female stars get paid substantially less than their male counterparts!
These Sedras are always read during the Three Weeks, where 1) we increase in our desire for a full return to the Land of Israel and 2) where we are reminded to treat everyone with respect.
May we merit to pass our ultimate litmus test and be rewarded with an end to our exile and a return to our ancestral home in peace and holiness.