Seth Berrill - Dvar Torah
Shabbat Shalom everyone.
Rabbi Malcom congregants and friends. Thank you for joining me to celebrate my Bar-Mitzvah this morning.
My Parasha is Pinchas and it includes the narrative of the story of the Daughters of Zelophehad.
After the death of the idolatrous Israelites, God told Moses to take a count of the entire community of the sons of Israel. G-d commanded Moses to declare that when a man died his inheritance will go to his sons and if they have no sons to his brothers and so on.
Interestingly no females were mentioned. The daughters of Zelophehad were angry and they challenged Moses and G-d that they too can inherit as their father did not have any male children, only daughters. After listening, G-d changed the law so if the man didn’t have any sons his inheritance would go to the daughters if he had no children at all it would go to his brother and so on.
This made a start to equality but there was still far to go.
Whilst this text was written thousands of years ago, I believe the teachings are most appropriate today. In this regard I am proud to be a member of Progressive Judaism where changes have been made to the way we worship G-d and the way we live Jewish life to make it more inclusive to all. Recently Progressive Judaism has gone further to acknowledge that gender is far more complex than simply male and female where everyone has a role in all aspects of Jewish life.
I am proud be be a member of this Jewish Progressive community where all are welcome irrespective of gender or colour.
The second message in this text is that Judaism offers one the ability to challenge G-d, as done by the Daughters of Zelophehad. G-d reflected on their message of equality and agreed to change. Judaism therefore encourages one to have the courage to challenge the status quo.
In modern history I wish to honour 2 Jewish members who had the courage to challenged the status quo:
• Hellen Suzan: who had the courage to take on the once all powerful National Party with their policy of apartheid and
• Albert Einstein: Who accredited his Jewish roots enabling him to challenge the existing laws governing of the universe, and come up with the theory of relativity when he was only 26
As I celebrate my Barmitzvah in a progressive community I hope G-d gives me the strength and wisdom to follow in the footsteps of those that were ridiculed for their progressive thoughts but still believed in challenging the status quo for a better world.
This is what I take away from the portion of Pinchas on my Barmitzvah day