Enough already! The second generation from the Exodus was ready to enter Canaan, and they were still questioning, rebelling and sinning! Moses knew that his role was nearing its end, and the people were as volatile as the slaves he had led out of Egypt. The people sinned with the daughters of Moab. A huge plague killed 24,000. The nation would have to go to war against Midian who had conspired against them. Moses' War Department began counting the people, reassuring them of God's continued love for them, and to determine the system through which the land of Canaan would be divided between the tribes. Moses is concerned. Moses is exhausted. Moses is very busy.
While Moses is dealing with these important issues, five sisters feel that the law of inheritance is not fair. The man who is considering the future of the Jewish people, planning a war, attempting to have the incorrigible people reconnect with God after their sins, is interrupted by the sisters demanding a hearing. They were frustrated by the rulings of all the wonderful, well-meaning rabbis of the lower courts, so they insisted on speaking directly to Moses. How beautiful is this scene of women who feel displaced immediately received by the incredibly busy great leader, who surely had more epochal issues on his mind! What a statement Moses made by just listening to their complaint!
All war preparations pause. Moses' generals stand aside to allow the judges to sit with Moses. The women present their case, and Moses, on whom all rely for truth, guidance and war plans, openly admits that he doesn't know how to address their concerns; he will have to use his hotline to God to get the answer. I love that Moses can openly admit that he doesn't know the answer. I am moved to my core when Moses declares that he must use the hotline, usually reserved for crises and important revelations, to involve God in this situation. Five women who feel displaced by the law are sufficiently important to pause all war preparations and plans for the nation's future, to seek God for an answer.
Moses could not count the people if a single person felt displaced. The people would be numbers not human beings. If Moses can display how the entire nation must pause and reach for the hotline because a few individuals feel that the law is unfair, he will finally be able to prepare the nation to build the Land of Israel. He will be able to calmly observe a new leader assume his role because it will be a nation that will never allow a single person to feel arbitrarily dismissed. Each person will "count," because each person will understand her significance to the nation and to God.
It is at this moment when Moses involves himself in the selection of the new leader. He demands a leader who will pay attention to the displaced people. He insists on a leader who will go out and find the displaced. The leader who will "bring them in," seeking out every man and woman so that none are lost between the cracks, is the one who assumes the role of Moses. The court that will pause its war preparations and important conferences discussing the future of the nation for the sake of one lost soul is the court of Moses.
The leader who focuses on the "significant" issues facing the people, who does not have the time or inclination to "go out before them and come in before them," to seek out the lost and displaced, does not lead as a Moses. The teacher who does not declare that a single child is worth pausing an important lesson, does not teach in the Moses method. The Jewish court that says to a suffering woman, "We summoned your husband but he refused to come, so there is nothing we can do to help you," is not a Court of Moses. A Jewish court that can arbitrarily declare the law, and allow someone who came for help to feel brushed aside by the law, is not a Court of Moses. Rabbis who do not pause in their battle against the internet to seek out every woman who feels displaced by the law, to reach out to every soul disappearing from the community, are not the rabbis sought by Moses.
We are taught that the Second Temple was destroyed because of hatred between people. A nation guided by a Court of Moses and led by the leader who will shake the highest heavens because five women feel displaced, will develop such honor, respect and love for each other, that the hatred will disappear; all we feel that they count.
We are now just two weeks from the anniversary of the Temple's destruction. We can battle the hatred by insisting that each voice be heard, that each soul's needs be addressed by the hotline, by demanding that our leaders make it absolutely clear that a woman who feels displaced is important enough to pause all war plans and steering committees. We'll have our hotline when we, as a nation appreciate, that every soul "counts."
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
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