There once was a father with FIVE daughters: oy! he must make matches for them all, and they’re all such modern, uppity young women, and then there’s this arduous journey…..
Perhaps you think it’s Tevya, the Dairyman, from Fiddler on the Roof, but this family predates Tevya by a couple of thousand years, and the journey is not across the Atlantic, but across the wilderness, wandering toward Israel. The father’s name is Tzelofechad, and he will die in the wilderness, as all the parents of the wanderers will, leaving orphaned families who must rely on each other. But Tzelofechad had no sons, which meant that when the daughters arrived in the Promised land they would have nothing: the law from Sinai said only sons can inherit! Now, life has been tough: born into slavery, a promise that seems unfulfilled, merciless attacks from the rear, followed by more wandering in wilderness. Cries of thirst and hunger, mutiny, plague and rebellion – things are so bad, the Israelites cry to return to slavery. And now they are fatherless and faced with poverty, a system that doesn’t respect daughters, but favors sons?
But these five daughters have it all figured out: they love their father and want to honor his memory, they support each other and believe in God’s justice and goodness. So they grab the guts to stand together before the powers that be: Moses and the elders in front of the tent of meeting, and make their reasoned, impassioned legal plea.
Perhaps God waits for such as these, a test to see in which of us the love and faith and ideals are more powerful than the fear. And… AMMENDMENT to the Torah!: the plea of Tzelofechad’s daughters is righteous!
So I wondered what these wonderful ladies were like, and I closed my eyes, and pictured them dancing in printed skirts, waltzing with each other. They each must have had talents, hopes and fears! Here’s one possibility:
Sister’s Keepers Waltz
Chorus: Machlah, Noah, Holga Milkah and Tirtzah, daughters of Tzelophehad
Five beautiful sisters, each her sister’s keeper, as we journey to our land….
Machlah we call you Ima, you carried little ones on your back, too soon our mother died,
Noah master of the lyre, making even sad hearts smile,
Holga, tender and shy, open, gentle soul, don’t hide!
Milkah weaver of tapestries, brilliant at her art;
and Tirtsah you’re our little one, beyond your years you’re wise of heart.
Now our father’s gone, We miss him so; What will come of us? we can’t know.
But we believe in the promise, a land where milk and honey flow, where justice and wisdom grow.
The law says we have no hope, but we know that can’t be so!
Arm in arm we stand, Moses hear our plea, Our father was a good man, but no sons had he.
We will keep his memory, alive in the promised land. Just give us a chance, lend us your hand!
Have we been too bold? what will our future hold? It is clear to all who hear: God has said our law is just, a future forged in faith and love is now within our trust
So after I wrote down these words, I heard a song for the first time, and fell in love with it. The song called Show the Way by David Wilcox is about how the violence of the world so overwhelms someone that they no longer believe in hope or love, and the composer sings an inspiring antidote. And then I realized that this is what the daughters mean to us. It’s been another violent year. A shooting of 20 children in an elementary school, a war in the Middle East again, and…. But five daughters trusted in God and love and promise and stood up together to the powers that be and….changed the world! and maybe we can too…
Show the Way, David Wilcox
You say you see no hope, you say you see no reason
We should dream that the world would ever change
You’re saying love is foolish to believe
‘Cause there’ll always be some crazy with an Army or a knife
To wake you from your day dream, put the fear back in your life
Look, if someone wrote a play just to glorify
What’s stronger than hate, would they not arrange the stage
To look as if the hero came too late, he’s almost in defeat
It’s looking like the Evil side will win, so on the Edge
Of every seat, from the moment that the whole thing begins
Love that mixed the mortar
And it’s love who stacked these stones
And it’s love who made the stage here
Although it looks like we’re alone
In this scene set in shadows
Like the night is here to stay
There is evil cast around us
But it’s love that wrote this play…
For in this darkness love can show the way
So now the stage is set. You feel your own heart beating
In your chest. This life’s not over yet.
So we get up on our feet and do our best. We play against the Fear.
We play against the reasons not to try
We’re playing for the tears burning in the happy angel’s eyes For its….
The Daughters five know the stage is set for them: they feel their hearts beating as one, and stand up tall and put their plea. They do it with love and faith, though the odds were stacked against them, and there were lots of reasons not to try (the earth swallowed challengers to status quo previously). The five an inspiration in our own lives.