Do you hear yourself thinking: “Who am I to object? There are others who are far more (fill in the blank: learned, courageous, community-minded, well-connected, etc.). Who am I to voice my protest? Besides, even if I do say something, this is how it always was done and always will be done. I am not going to make any difference!”
This week’s Torah portion is about trailblazers who have the courage to take bold action and create positive change.
After sinning with Midianite women and worshipping their idol, a plague had broken out among the Jewish people. Zimri, a Simeonite prince, publicly takes a Moabite princess into his tent. Understanding the law, Pinchas kills them both, stopping the plague.
The Torah writes that Pinchas was “the son of Elazar, the son of Aaron.” In character and temperament, Pinchas was just like his grandfather—the compassionate and peace-loving Aaron. Pinchas’ zealous act defied his peaceful nature in order to bring about peace between G‑d and Israel. G‑d rewards him with a covenant of priesthood.
Later in the parshah, the daughters of the Tzelafchad petition Moses to be granted a portion of the land belonging to their father, who died without sons. Moses presents their case to G‑d, who establishes their legal right and incorporates this law into the Torah’s laws of inheritance.
Tzelafchad’s daughters were descendants of Machir, from the tribe of Menashe, who had asked Moshe to settle on the Jordan’s eastern side. They understood that they could receive territory there since it would be distributed by Moses and not by Divine lot. But these women loved the Land of Israel itself.
This is why the Torah traces their genealogy back to Joseph, who also loved Israel. Before his death in Egypt, Joseph asked his brothers to swear that they would bring out his bones and bury him in Israel’s holy soil.
The five sisters became the vehicle for the revelation of G‑d’s commandment. G‑d wrote a special chapter in the Torah altering the status quo only once these women stepped up to the plate. While the spies had spoken evil about the Land, these women taught their generation to love it passionately.
So, how can YOU become a trailblazer to create positive change? Here are three things to keep in mind:
- Make sure your intentions are pure and not motivated by personal gain.
- Know the law. Pinchas knew the Torah’s parameters. Tzelafchad’s daughters, too, had done their research and presented learned claims.
- Believe it’s not too late to turn the tide. When no one is taking action, it may just be because YOU alone need to step up to the plate.
Wishing you a bold and courageous week!