This Week's Torah Portion: Pinchas

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This Week's Torah Portion: Pinchas

Post #1

Post by Jrosemary »

I've missed a few weeks; sorry! Nonetheless, here's the United Synagogue's summary on this week's parsha. It's disturbing in that Pinchas's extreme act (read: murder) brings him honor, but intriguing in that the daughters of Zelophehad step forward to claim their rights:
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism wrote:God rewards Pinchas for his zealous action by granting Pinchas His pact of friendship (or covenant of peace) and His “pact of priesthood for all time.� God then tells Moses to attack and defeat the Midianites for their role in enticing the Israelites into sin.

After the plague that killed some 24,000 Israelites, God tells Moses and Eleazar to take a census of the Israelite men who are 20 and older, according to their ancestral houses. This census was to be used to apportion the land. The Levites are counted separately because they would not receive a share of the land.

Five sisters, the daughters of a man named Zelophehad, approach Moses and the other leaders. They explain that their father died without sons and they want to claim his share of the land. Moses asks God what to do, and God tells him that the women have made a just claim. Whenever a man dies without a son, his property shall be inherited by his daughters. If there is no daughter, the property will go to other male relatives.

God tells Moses to ascend Mount Avarim so he can see the land from there before he dies. Moses asks God to select a worthy successor and God tells Moses to appoint Joshua to lead the people after Moses’ death.

God instructs Moses about the daily sacrifices and the additional (musaf) offerings for Shabbat, rosh chodesh, and festivals.

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Post #2

Post by JoeyKnothead »

From the OP:

I respond as a curious atheist who seeks understanding, and not one trying to play "gotcha"...
Opie wrote:...
Whenever a man dies without a son, his property shall be inherited by his daughters. If there is no daughter, the property will go to other male relatives.
Indicates to me a male-centric (read dominant) society, and seems more in line with my amateur understanding of ancient sociology. I notice there's no mention of a mother's 'lineal rights'.

From the data presented I could think God is saying, "Ya dang dumb men messed up, like I couldn't see that'n coming, so now I'm gonna get y'all for that, and from now on I ain't so upset about that whole Eve deal."

Lacking in-depth knowledge of ancient history, I'm curious to know if this is the first real, substantial codification of women's rights in human history.
Some say it came from Memphis down in Tennessee
Or it drifted in from Georgia about 1953
Just as long as it's greasy, as long as it's fast
As long as it's pumpin' honey, it's gonna last

It's the hillbilly rock, beat it with a drum
Playin' them guitars like shootin' from a gun
Keepin' up the rhythm, steady as a clock
Doin' a little thing called the hillbilly rock
- Marty Stuart

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Post #3

Post by Goat »

joeyknuccione wrote:From the OP:

I respond as a curious atheist who seeks understanding, and not one trying to play "gotcha"...
Opie wrote:...
Whenever a man dies without a son, his property shall be inherited by his daughters. If there is no daughter, the property will go to other male relatives.
Indicates to me a male-centric (read dominant) society, and seems more in line with my amateur understanding of ancient sociology. I notice there's no mention of a mother's 'lineal rights'.

From the data presented I could think God is saying, "Ya dang dumb men messed up, like I couldn't see that'n coming, so now I'm gonna get y'all for that, and from now on I ain't so upset about that whole Eve deal."

Lacking in-depth knowledge of ancient history, I'm curious to know if this is the first real, substantial codification of women's rights in human history.
That is right.. it was a very male dominated society, and bloodlines always go through the biological father... even if someone is adopted.

However, the key to if someone is considered "Jewish" or not goes through the mother.
“What do you think science is? There is nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. So which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic?�

Steven Novella

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Post #4

Post by JoeyKnothead »

goat wrote: That is right.. it was a very male dominated society, and bloodlines always go through the biological father... even if someone is adopted.

However, the key to if someone is considered "Jewish" or not goes through the mother.
Very interesting, and I remember one of y'all touching on it.

Could someone please refresh my memory?
Some say it came from Memphis down in Tennessee
Or it drifted in from Georgia about 1953
Just as long as it's greasy, as long as it's fast
As long as it's pumpin' honey, it's gonna last

It's the hillbilly rock, beat it with a drum
Playin' them guitars like shootin' from a gun
Keepin' up the rhythm, steady as a clock
Doin' a little thing called the hillbilly rock
- Marty Stuart

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Post #5

Post by Goat »

joeyknuccione wrote:
goat wrote: That is right.. it was a very male dominated society, and bloodlines always go through the biological father... even if someone is adopted.

However, the key to if someone is considered "Jewish" or not goes through the mother.
Very interesting, and I remember one of y'all touching on it.

Could someone please refresh my memory?
If a mother is Jewish, their offspring is considered Jewish, even if the father is not, or is unknown. If the father is Jewish, and the mother is not, then you have to worry about the proper education and conversion process.
“What do you think science is? There is nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. So which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic?�

Steven Novella

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Post #6

Post by JoeyKnothead »

From Post 5:

I 'preciate the schooling...
goat wrote: If a mother is Jewish, their offspring is considered Jewish, even if the father is not, or is unknown.
Why the mother? In most other societies I'm aware of patrilineal descent is the order of the day.

It actually makes sense (lacking specifics), with the mother bearing most of the burden. Of course if the conception was done right, the man put in a good bit of work too.
Some say it came from Memphis down in Tennessee
Or it drifted in from Georgia about 1953
Just as long as it's greasy, as long as it's fast
As long as it's pumpin' honey, it's gonna last

It's the hillbilly rock, beat it with a drum
Playin' them guitars like shootin' from a gun
Keepin' up the rhythm, steady as a clock
Doin' a little thing called the hillbilly rock
- Marty Stuart

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Jrosemary
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Post #7

Post by Jrosemary »

Hey Joey!

It's not clear when the 'Judaism gets passed through the mother' became the standard rule; it's probably a pretty ancient custom, but it may not have been formalized until the time of the Roman Empire.

There are a few different theories about it:

1. The amniotic (spelling?) fluid in the womb is a kind of natural mikvah; so to be Jewish, you need to be floating around in a Jewish mother's womb pre-birth or go to a mikvah in order to convert.

(A mikvah is a pool of water either naturally occurring or man-made inside special buildings; in either case, some of the water must be fresh water from rain or some other outdoor source. You go to the mikvah to be ritually purified after certain circumstances; it's also part of formally converting to Judaism.

This is most likely the source of Christian baptism; although they use the practice in a different way and with a different understanding than Jews.)

2. It may have come about because there's never any question who a person's mother is; in the case where a woman has been raped, this ensured her children would still be accepted by the Jewish community.

3. Ok, I don't know what number 3 is, but I know there are other theories!

Meanwhile, I'm looking into your question about the daughters of Zelophehad and how their demand to inherit their father's land in absense of a brother compared to other women's circumstances in the ancient world. I'll be getting back to you on that!

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Post #8

Post by JoeyKnothead »

Jrosemary wrote:Hey Joey!

It's not clear when the 'Judaism gets passed through the mother' became the standard rule; it's probably a pretty ancient custom, but it may not have been formalized until the time of the Roman Empire.

There are a few different theories about it:

1. The amniotic (spelling?) fluid in the womb is a kind of natural mikvah; so to be Jewish, you need to be floating around in a Jewish mother's womb pre-birth or go to a mikvah in order to convert.

(A mikvah is a pool of water either naturally occurring or man-made inside special buildings; in either case, some of the water must be fresh water from rain or some other outdoor source. You go to the mikvah to be ritually purified after certain circumstances; it's also part of formally converting to Judaism.

This is most likely the source of Christian baptism; although they use the practice in a different way and with a different understanding than Jews.)

2. It may have come about because there's never any question who a person's mother is; in the case where a woman has been raped, this ensured her children would still be accepted by the Jewish community.

3. Ok, I don't know what number 3 is, but I know there are other theories!

Meanwhile, I'm looking into your question about the daughters of Zelophehad and how their demand to inherit their father's land in absense of a brother compared to other women's circumstances in the ancient world. I'll be getting back to you on that!
Edit in a Hey, hope all is well that way!

The emboldened passage above really gets me, knowing the historical hardships a 'bastard' child has been known to face.

I gotta say the Jewish culture is fascinating, and I'm proud to learn more about it. To hold on to such ancient traditions or practices indicates a deep respect for one's past.
Some say it came from Memphis down in Tennessee
Or it drifted in from Georgia about 1953
Just as long as it's greasy, as long as it's fast
As long as it's pumpin' honey, it's gonna last

It's the hillbilly rock, beat it with a drum
Playin' them guitars like shootin' from a gun
Keepin' up the rhythm, steady as a clock
Doin' a little thing called the hillbilly rock
- Marty Stuart

cnorman18

This Week's Torah Portion: Pinchas

Post #9

Post by cnorman18 »

From my reading, it appears that Jewish law was indeed the first codification of women's rights in male-dominated society. Discounting some very primitive communities which were matriarchal, women were generally regarded as property in the ancient world, and property was only owned by men. The daughters of Zelophehad, in most ancient societies, wouldn't even have had the right to ask about their father's property, because they were part of it; the only question would be who owned them, and whether or not HE had any right to the other property.

By today's standards, Orthodox Judaism is repressive of women and limits their rights and independence; but by the standards of the first millenium BCE, Jewish law was a revolution that actually recognized women as human beings, as opposed to cattle or objects. A Jewish marriage contract specifically recognizes the wife's rights and the husband's responsibilities in the marriage, and ensures the woman's security and welfare if the marriage should end. This was a radical change in the concept. Marriage contracts in other cultures were essentially bills of sale.

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Post #10

Post by Goat »

joeyknuccione wrote:From Post 5:

I 'preciate the schooling...
goat wrote: If a mother is Jewish, their offspring is considered Jewish, even if the father is not, or is unknown.
Why the mother? In most other societies I'm aware of patrilineal descent is the order of the day.

It actually makes sense (lacking specifics), with the mother bearing most of the burden. Of course if the conception was done right, the man put in a good bit of work too.
Well, you don't always know who the father is. You always know the mother.
“What do you think science is? There is nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. So which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic?�

Steven Novella

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