Credibility and Respect
In this week's Torah portion, Moses speaks about the laws of inheritance vis-a-vis the future apportionment of the Land of Israel. Five sisters - orphaned from their father, Tzlafchad - challenge one aspect of Moses' ruling.
When you put the story of Tzlafchad's daughters in the context of its times, it belies belief. Although equality of the sexes seems completely natural today, we must remember that the feminist movement only began roughly 100 years ago. For thousands of years before that, women had no say, no role and certainly no position in any society on earth.
Bearing that in mind, let's think about what happens with Tzlafchad's daughters.
For five young girls of no particular lineage to be granted an audience with the national leader would be unthinkable. For them to question his judgment would be impossible. For him then to agree with them would just not happen.
Apart from the respect for women that is light years ahead of its times, I want to point out something else. Even after such an episode occurred, for it to be then written in the history books of the nation would be absolutely unimaginable. How can Moses possibly maintain his credibility as "the lawgiver" if five young girls know the law better than he does?!
One of the many aspects of Torah that always impresses me is its honesty. The Author of this book has nothing to hide and nothing to prove. The laws are unreservedly challenging. The stories do not always paint even the greatest of characters in a positive light. There is no fear of upsetting or offending anyone. Someone so seemingly disinterested in convincing his audience that he is God, is someone with supreme confidence that he really is God.