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The Prophecy of Equality (Bechukotai – 05/28/22)

The Prophecy of Equality
This past Shabbat we celebrated a most beautiful B’not Mitzvah with twin sisters. Sometimes the Torah reading is exciting and engaging in and of itself, and other times, it’s just the opposite. This week’s parsha was more of the latter, with the topic dealing with items one would consecrate to the Temple in ancient times.
In addition to donating animals and property to the Temple, one could offer one’s own value. This sticky part is that the worth of a male was always more than that of a female. How do we make this meaningful for two thirteen-year-old Jewish girls in 2022?
I’d like to share with you the D’var Torah that Mara and Jenna presented to the congregation, for I think they figured out a beautiful solution thanks to the Haftorah.
“This week’s Torah portion couldn’t have been more perfect for us to read. Parshat Bechukotai implies that men are worth more than women. However, for our whole lives, we always believed that women should be treated the same as men. In the first aliyah of our reading it states, “When a person expresses a vow, pledging the value of their life to the Lord, the value of a male shall be as follows: From twenty years old until sixty years old, the value is fifty silver shekels, and if she is a female, the value is thirty shekels. It continues to gauge a person’s value based upon age, but in all categories, men come out to be worth more. This reading is basically saying that a man is worth more than a female, which shows the inequality between men and women.
Even though the status of women has improved over the ages, until the twentieth century there were no Bat Mitzvahs for girls because it wasn’t considered important. Our mom had a Bat Mitzvah but she didn’t read from the Torah. We are very grateful that we got to have our B’not Mitzvah and read from the Torah. Men shouldn’t be worth more than women because women are just as important! Nowadays, women are athletes and doctors; we even have the first female vice president and hopefully, one day soon, there will be a female president. This is a very sensitive topic and we are very happy that this is what our Torah portion was about. Believe it or not, while the Torah was sexist, in the haftorah the prophet Hosea foresaw a time of equality. Our haftorah (Hosea 2:1-22) compares the relationship of the Jewish people to G-d to the relationship between a wife and husband. The Jewish people are the wife, and G-d is the husband. In this comparison, G-d is the almighty and all-powerful, like how men are seen, and women are viewed as subservient.
The prophet Hosea, though, foresaw a time when wife and husband were both seen equally in a fair relationship. “And it shall come to pass on that day, says the Lord, you shall call Me Ishi (my man/husband) and you shall no longer call Me Baali (My master)”. Hosea is predicting a time of change in the future. The relationship between a man and a woman will not be of a master and servant but of two equals. We are living in that change right now!
We see this equality all the time with our parents. Our mom and dad treat each other respectfully and they don’t overpower each other. Each of them plays a very crucial role in the family. We’re so glad that this is possible today.
We are so lucky to be living in a time when women are significant contributors to the world. So although our Torah portion talked about men being worth more than women, our Haftorah talks about a time when women and men are equal to each other. We are now experiencing that prophecy!”
It is remarkable that girls are now raised to believe they are equals with men. I know I didn’t think this way when I was young; it took a while for me to see the light. Hopefully, though, I raised my children with this belief. In fact, now one of my daughters leads the family in advanced graduate degrees.
While the prophecy has been slow to come around, thankfully, it’s making its way.
Speaking of my daughter, Menuchah is getting married on August 11th! Please join Menuchah and Burton, Judy and me, and the family for celebratory Sheva Brachot on the Shabbat following the wedding, August 12 and 13. Sheva Brachot are festive meals that the bride and groom traditionally enjoy with family and friends for seven days after the wedding (before the institution of the honeymoon). Friday night we’ll have a joyous, musical service followed by a sumptuous kiddush. On Shabbat morning we’ll have traditional services followed by a sit-down meal. You are invited to both. Please let Andi know,, when you plan to come, so we can prepare properly.
While we are on the topic of brides and grooms, Shavuot, the festival marking the marriage of the Jewish people to G-d, starts this Saturday night. Since Shavuot is the day G-d gave us The Ten Commandments, it’s considered the time when we became pledged to the Torah so there is a custom to learn Torah all night. Torah discussions will be led by Dr. Elliot Morris, Sharon Dashow, Paul Konigstein, and yours truly. While we may wane as midnight approaches, we will start our adventure at 9 PM at our house on Gilbert Lane; cheesecake will be served! Alternatively, join us on Zoom. Please let Andi, at the above email address, know if you’ll be joining us in person.
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbat and enlightening Shavuot,
Rabbi Neil, Judy and family

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