April 13, 2024 |

The sun, the moon and Zelophahad's daughters or God intended the world to be egalitarian

A large part of this week's Torah reading is devoted to a description of the sacrifices. Each holiday has its special sacrifice and an additional sin offering. Sometimes this sin offering is referred to simply as a sin offering and sometimes it is referred to as a sin offering to atone for you.

Only concerning Rosh Chodesh (first of the Hebrew month) is it called "A sin offering of the Lord." <!--break--> We do not need to ask what sins people have committed that they need to bring a sin offering. There are certainly enough. But what is God's sin that he need to atone for? I am not the first one to ask this question.

When Raish Lakish looked for an answer to this question, he looked for an answered related to the moon since Rosh Chodesh marks the monthly reappearance of the moon. However, in order to understand Raish Lakish's answer, we need first to look Rabbi Shimon Ben-Pazi's comments on the creation of the moon.

In Genesis, it says that God created "two large lights" but it also says "the large light and the small light." Were there two large lights or a large light and a small light? Ben-Pazi explains that both the sun and the moon started out as large lights, until the moon complained to the Holy One saying "How can it be that two kings wear the same crown?" (How can it be that the sun and I are of equal status?). The Holy One answered him and said, "Go make yourself smaller!"

To this Raish Lakish adds, "What is different about the sin offering of Rosh Hodesh that it says a sin offering for the Lord? God said, "Bring atonement for me since I made the moon smaller."

According to Raish Lakish, God wants to atone for the fact that he let the moon talk him into making His world unequal. God had created the world egalitarian and intended for it to remain that way.

Today we also read about Zelophahad's daughters who requested an inheritance in the Land of Israel. The midrash tells us that before they brought their case to Moses, Zelophahad's daughters consulted among themselves and said, "God's mercy is not like human mercy. Human have more mercy on the males than on females, but "He Who Spoke and Created the World" has mercy on males and females, since He has mercy on all His creatures, as it written "The Lord is good to all and has mercy on all his handiwork." According to this Zelophahad's daughters understand that God created the world to be egalitarian and so they request their share in the Land of Israel. God grants their request on the condition that they marry within their tribe. This means that together with the portion of the land, which is a privilege, comes responsibility.

This makes the connection to my Bat Mitzvah. Now I am entering the stage of maturity which brings with it obligations and responsibilities. Like Zelophahad's daughters, I agree to accept the responsibilities that accompany the privileges of a grown-up person. Like them, I, too, see the world through egalitarian eyes. I think that the world was created to be egalitarian and we need to work on returning it to that state.

This was the Bat Mitzva drasha of Leah Zucker, for Parashat Pinhas.


Shoshana Michael Zucker

Joined: September 27, 2007

A professional translator, wife and mother of three, I more a self-educated than a formally educated Jew. Most of my divrei torah are given in Hebrew but when I have time I do translate some.

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