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Parshat Pinchas teaches us that sometimes women must stand up for change in order to enact change

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Rochel Leah asks if women are too obsessed with looks | Photo: Vonecia Carswell (Unsplash)

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I called my grandmother before Shabbat recently. Congratulating me on my graduation, she said, “When I was your age, we women had no voice, we had no opportunities. Not in our marriages, in politics, in our jobs. But you, Babala, the whole world is yours. The world is your oyster. In these times a woman can do anything, you truly don’t know how lucky you are. Get out there and spread your wings.”

I said a quick, happy-sounding goodbye, but a sudden darkness demanded attention from me. My grandmother had struck a chord, and I was suffering.

She made me think of a question I already knew the answer to: Are women really free? We, modern women, enjoy all of the freedoms that our sisters fought tirelessly for, some as simple as higher education and the right to vote.

Yet with all of our external freedoms, I feared that internally, women were more incarcerated than ever. “You can vote! You can own property! You have a seat in Congress! You must be happy, you must feel free!” the world tells us. And yet, when I listen closely, I can sometimes hear the muffled moans of the world’s women, as they suffer an unknowable burden. When the wind stops blowing, and all is silent, I can hear womankind heave a great sigh, gasping under a weight that threatens to suffocate her.

Generations of women come and go; millions of those women lay silent in the dust, their potential never reached, their greatness never unveiled, their minds and souls held hostage by society’s merciless demands to be beautiful, to be desirable.

We women believe that we are free, but every move we make is tailored by someone’s expectation of us. Instead of living as we choose, we live our lives on display, sometimes so accustomed to performing, that we forget we are always on stage. We cower in the face of Vogue magazine, and Hollywood and the question at the forefront of our mind begins to sound less like, “What can I add to the world, and what am I capable of?” and more like, “how do I look today? Am I getting fat? Have I let myself go?”

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Our sense of self is mute, “Where am I? Who am I?” We women so often look to man to find ourselves. In a state of desperation, we frantically search man’s face, in search of our own reflection. What do you think of me? How do you see me? Am I enough?

But we’re free, right ladies?  We freely choose our own undoing, but no, we are not truly free. So long as womankind puts her appearance and the size of her thighs, before the powers of her mind, and the might of her soul, she is locked up, her feminine powers eclipsed by the mortal commandment to be perfect, to be sexy, to be beautiful, to be desirable, to be a little smaller, but also a little bigger, to cater to the male mind.

Why don’t we feel free? We have forgotten what it is to be a woman, and in turn, we settle for an abject existence far below us.

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In this week’s parsha, we are introduced to the Torah’s very first feminists. Known as the daughters of Zelafchad, these five women fight for their right to inherit land in Israel.

In an unbelievable confrontation, the five sisters, without being summoned and without permission, come face to face with Moses, and all of the male leaders of the Jewish people. Tensions are high, but they come prepared; they are well-versed in Jewish law and scripture. Heads held high, determined to fight for their rights, they demand an inheritance equal to that of their male counterparts, “If we are as important as a son, give us a portion as a son!” (Bava Batra 119b.) 

So shocked and surprised is Moses, that he must approach God himself for an answer. God supports their claims unequivocally. The Jewish laws of inheritance were then changed forever.

In my fury, or perhaps it is just pain, I sometimes glare at the heavens and demand an answer to that question that kills me: Why was the world not created for us women. 

God’s silence is itself an answer. He dares me to be the one to make a change, much like the daughters of Zelfchad. Like those five fierce women, I know what must be done; I know that God’s mighty hand in this world might look like me.

Like those five ferocious women, I will be the one to enact change, to show women what is rightfully theirs, what they deserve. I will bring back the memory of the five daughters of Zelfchad, and show women what they are made of.

Rochel Leah Boteach is the force behind The Thirsty Souls. A fierce advocate for female Torah scholarship and leadership, she created her page determined to teach Torah to all people in all places. She is on a mission to nourish and nurture a living, breathing Judaism for all.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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