WRJ: Working to Make the World a Little More Fair
This week’s Torah portion, Pinchas (Numbers 25:10 – 30:1), picks up where last week’s portion, Balak, leaves off. In last week’s portion, Pinchas followed an Israelite “notable” and a Midianite woman into their tent and murdered them. In the beginning of this week’s portion, named for Pinchas, we learn that he was rewarded with hereditary priesthood. Pinchas’s story presents an interesting dilemma for modern readers to wrestle with. Yet it didn’t shout at me “write about this!” so I read on.
The parashah continues with the taking of a census of every male over twenty. The purpose of the census was to divide the land which the Israelites were going to enter. It is in this parashah that we learn of Zelophehad’s five daughters, Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Micah, and Tirzah, who challenged the patriarchal system and gained their rightful share of the land as their father’s inheritance. These were smart women – they knew that their request was outside of the norm, and that Moses would have to ask God for the answer to their petition. They believed in the fairness of God’s laws, and had faith that the answer would be favorable.
Fairness… now that’s something which DOES shout “write about this!” I believe that life should be fair. Good things should happen to good people, and the bad things should be mostly reserved for well, bad people. In the last several months, my need for “fair” has been seriously challenged. A rabbi, whose blog I follow regularly, now writes about her young son’s leukemia. Two friends of my sons, who I remember as delightful teenagers, have children battling forms of cancer; one, a brain tumor, the other, T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. A young mother, a beloved teacher in our pre-school, has been fighting cancer for several years, and now has developed yet another form of the disease.
My rabbi, Rabbi Pam Silk, recently gave a short d’var on the topic of fairness. She reminded me that while we cannot legislate fair, we can do our part to even the score, so to speak. She spoke about having faith that every whispered prayer, every smile, every good thing we do helps balance the world. And so, when I let someone pull out of a parking lot in front of me, when I smile at the grumpy guy in the elevator, when I silently say the names of those I love and those I worry about when I light the Shabbat candles, I have faith that I am doing something to right the balance of the world.
If one person can do this, just think what we, as Women of Reform Judaism, can do! I am very proud of the BIG things that WRJ accomplishes, both at the local level and the international level. I’m proud of the influence we have had on the growth and strength of Progressive Judaism. I’m proud of all of the wonderful things we’ve accomplished through the YES Fund over the years.
Let me say, though, that I am even more proud of the things we do routinely, without fanfare. We, the women of Reform Judaism, are the heart of our congregations. This week, a friend told me how her sisterhood provides food and paper goods for shiva minyans. I was reminded of my own sisterhood president, silently entering a house of mourning and putting out food, clearing tables, and washing dishes. I know sisterhood members who visit patients in hospitals and provide transportation to doctor’s appointments for those who cannot drive. When I visit other Reform congregations, it is often the sisterhood women who greet me, a total stranger, and welcome me into their community. How many of us volunteer as sisterhood women at food pantries and homeless shelters? The list goes on and on.
Tonight, when I light my Shabbat candles, I will add a whispered prayer of thanks for the women of Reform Judaism – the women who stand with me to make the world a little more fair.
May the light of the Shabbat candles brighten all our lives.