Women Teach Men

Women Teach Men
Silhouette of women holding hands against the sunset.

Biblical men learn from Biblical women. Here are two examples of women solving problems, personal or political, where the men around them copy their style.

You can see the examples easily, if you do a close reading. First, think of the Torah as a great work of literature. Then, imagine the author carefully crafted each detail. So that the characters’ minds and relationships are revealed in their words and actions. Finally, notice patterns as they take shape. That’s what I do here.

Rachel begins to make peace with her sister Leah after her surrogate Bilhah gives birth to Rachel’s first son Naftali. Rachel says: With holy wrestling I have wrestled with my sister (Gen. 30:8).

Just a few years later, Jacob’s estranged brother Esau shows up. Jacob can’t avoid making peace any longer. So, to prepare, he copies his wife Rachel’s strategy. He wrestles all night with a mysterious stranger. And, then, in the morning he makes peace (Gen. 32-33).

We also see a similar chain of events in Num. 27. Zelophehad has no sons. So his five daughters––Machla, Noa, Hogla, Milca and Tirza––petition to inherit their father’s land. How do they succeed? With a calm attitude and divine consultation in front of witnesses.

When they consult God, God says: If a man dies with no son, inheritance goes to his daughters. If he has no daughters or brothers, inheritance goes to his closest kin.

Then, one verse later, Moses learns he will soon die. His sons live far away. He has no daughters and his siblings have died. So, how should the people decide who inherits his role as leader? Follow the ruling God gave the women. Moses’ closest kin, his de facto son Joshua, will inherit.

How do Moses and Joshua manage that decision? And make sure the people accept it? They use tools borrowed from the women: a calm attitude and divine consultation in front of witnesses.

In these two stories, we see a theme that is echoed in the Book of Ruth. There, men run the legal courts. But the courts echo the work already done by women’s social networking. The men, it seems, quietly recognize women’s wisdom.

Not convinced yet? Then please explore the links in the post! Shabbat shalom.

Photo credit: https://www.clipart.email

  1. I love this! The story of the daughters of Zelophehad is one of my favorites. Thank you for your insights.

    A calm attitude and divine consultation in front of witnesses..if only our current “leadership” in the U.S. operated in this manner.

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