Volume 3 Number 2 – January 18, 2020 – 21 Teves 5780
Join A Sisterhood Committee
For ALL members, there is no better time to get involved than NOW – at the beginning of our calendar year. Consider joining one of our standing committees:
Among our ongoing activities: the Membership Tea, the Annual Fashion Show, Movie Nights, Book Club, Passport to Israel program, and much, much more! Join us! For more information: contact Teree Farbstein.
SHEMOT – Rabbi Sacks on ‘Women as Leaders’
…excerpted from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
This week’s parsha could be entitled “The birth of a leader.” We see Moses, adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, growing up as a prince of Egypt. We see how G-d summons him to lead his people to freedom…in a classic account of the evolution of a hero. But this is only the surface. The Torah is a deep and subtle book. Just beneath the surface is another and far more remarkable story, not about a hero but about six heroines, six courageous women without whom there would not have been a Moses.
Jocheved, who, at the height of Egyptian persecution, had the courage to have a child, hide him for three months, and then devise a plan to give him a chance of being rescued. The second was Miriam…who kept watch over Moses as the ark floated down the river, who suggested to Pharaoh’s daughter that he be nursed among his own people, and who challenged her father to realize Pharaoh’s decree only affected the boys, while her father’s response to bring NO children into this world was much worse because it would deprive them of life even in the world to come. Two midwives, Shifrah and Puah, as the third and fourth heroines, frustrated Pharaoh’s attempt at genocide because they feared G-d more than the King of Egypt. They outwitted Pharaoh, saved lives, and escaped punishment…thus teaching the world the primacy of conscience over conformity, the moral law of justice over the law of the land. The fifth is Zipporah, Moses’ wife, who saved Moses’ life by performing a circumcision on their son and who had a better understanding than Moses himself of what G-d requires. The last and most intriguing is Pharaoh’s daughter who had the courage to rescue an Israelite child and bring him up as her own in the very palace where her father was plotting the destruction of the Israelite people. Could we imagine a daughter of Hitler, or Eichmann, or Stalin, doing the same? This heroic and gracious woman gave Moses his name. Who was she? The Torah does not give her a name. However the First Book of Chronicles mentions a daughter of Pharaoh, named Bitya, and it was she the sages identified as the woman who saved Moses. The name Bitya (sometimes Batya) means “the daughter of G-d”. From this, the sages drew one of their most striking lessons: HaShem said to her: “Moses was not your son, yet you called him your son. You are not My daughter, but I shall call you My daughter.” They added that she was one of the few who were so righteous that they entered paradise in their lifetime.
So, on the surface, the parsha is about the initiation into leadership of one remarkable man, but just beneath the surface is a counter-narrative of six extraordinary women without whom there would not have been a Moses.
How then, if women emerge so powerfully as leaders, were they excluded in Jewish law from certain leadership roles? Women were historically excluded from two areas: the “crown of priesthood,” which went to Aaron and his sons, and the “crown of kingship,” which went to David and his sons. These were two roles built on the principle of dynastic succession. From the third crown – the “crown of Torah” – however, women were not excluded.
Yocheved, Miriam, Shifra, Puah, Zipporah and Batya were leaders not because of any official position they held (in the case of Batya she was a leader despite her official title as a princess of Egypt). They were leaders because they had courage and conscience. They refused to be intimidated by power or defeated by circumstance. They were the real heroes of the exodus. Their courage is still a source of inspiration today.
Next NHBZ Book – Monday, Feb. 24, 7:15-8:45 pm
The next Book Club Meeting will be Monday, Feb. 24, 7:15-8:45 pm, at the home of Sallie Volotzky. The book will be “Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love” by Dani Shapiro. People Magazine calls it a profound and exquisitely rendered exploration of identity and the true meaning of family. Linda Shore will lead the discussion.
All women welcome! For more info or to RSVP contact Terri Schnitzer.
Many thanks to Vivian Zarkowsky for hosting the Book Club, including (by Skype!) the author herself on Monday, January 13. Thanks also to Margo Tzadok for leading the lively discussion of “Jerusalem Maiden.”
For information or to join Sisterhood, call the NHBZ office at 314-991-2100, ext. 3, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org