7/8 July 2023, 19 Tamuz 5783

Much is written about the five sisters in this week’s parashah (Torah portion). The daughters of Zelophehad pleaded their case before Moses (and God) to inherit their father’s name and holding as there were no brothers. This had significant impact on inheritance and legacy rulings and Moses and God changed rules because of these daughters. What commentators particularly draw out is the fact they are named, all of them.

…The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noa, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. They stood before Moses, Elazar the priest, the chieftains and the whole assembly…(Numbers 27:1)

They were counted. They were named and they stood up and out to present their case. They boldly demanded an inheritance of the promised land and their names are repeated twice. Babylonian Talmud, in Bava Batra 119b praises them in three ways: as intelligent women knowing when was the right time to speak; as being knowledgeable in Israelite (Jewish) law, knowing the legal ramifications of their situation; and lastly, because they were unmarried and stood up for themselves, whatever their ages.

Doubtless they were astute pioneers. But for us as a congregation, I am particularly drawn this year, on re-reading the text, to the naming of the sisters. This week marked our 70th AGM and in all our remembering and praising what we have achieved, I am struck by the names of individuals whose lives have been touched by FPS and in turn leave their mark. We are nothing if not a congregation of individual named people who have shaped the customs, expectations and achievements of this our synagogue. All who step forward to take office carry the responsibility, however briefly, of the health and welfare of our community and the values we hold. I am so grateful this week for our Council and Executive and the passing the baton from our brilliant Chair Tamara Joseph to our next thoughtful and skilled Chair in Beverly Kafka.

And for me, it’s Mahlah, Noa, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah who remind me of that.

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom,