It is 1am on the East Coast at the end of another long day but I must mention the last event I attended this evening which was a panel discussion announcing the publication of The Torah: A Women's Commentary.
"The five daughters of Zelophehad in the Book of Numbers approach Moses, the leaders of the people, and the entire community. They draw near because they see a problem that needs a solution: they have not been given an inheritance that they believe is due to them. They refuse to be left out and demand their rightful share. And so they dare speak to Moses, the priest Eleazar, all the other leaders, and the entire edah (congregation or formally constituted assembly). They say: 'Give us a holding among our father's kin. Give us a share of our heritage, why should we be left out?'
They get what they want – a share, a large share I should add. Moreover, as a result of their courage, a new Torah law is created, one that intends to benefit future generations long after them.
Their story is the story of the WRJ's The Torah: A Women's Commentary. The Women of Reform Judaism said: 'Give us a share among our brothers. We are no longer willing to be left out.' Instead of land, WRJ asks for something even more enduring - 'Give us a share of our Torah.' The result is a Torah commentary that we trust will benefit all of us. With this commentary we will continue as sisters to empower the women - and men - who come after us for generations to come."
Dr. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi
Professor of Bible, HUC-JIR/LA
This is a landmark publication arising from congregational enthusiasm and support. It will be published in three weeks. The commentary has five elements:-
*A central commentary of each Torah portion written by a biblical scholar, concentrating on issues that involve women (either because they appear in the text or because they do not) and explaining unclear passages and words.
*A second, shorter biblical voice, focusing on a specific element, complementing, supplementing or challenging the central commentary.
*A post-biblical text interpretation, highlighting how traditional Torah portions addressed issues pertaining to women.
*Contemporary reflections, addressing philosophical, theological, and other approaches relevant to the Bible and Jewish life today.
*Creative voices, offering imaginative responses to the text in the form of poems, modern midrash, and other artistic expressions.