Congregation Beth El–Keser Israel

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Wither BEKI Men’s Club?

Shabbat HaHodesh 4 April 1997

Drew Allison is President of BEKI Men’s Club and graduate student at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

Presented at BEKI Men’s Club Shabbat, Shabbat HaHodesh 4 April 1997

Shabbat shalom. Welcome to the Men’s Club Shabbat, Shabbat HaHodesh–welcome Men’s Club members and welcome all guests. This is the last Shabbat before we come to the month of Nisan; in fact Rosh Hodesh Nisan will be on Tuesday, this week.

I would like to begin with a look at part of the haftarah for this special Shabbat, one of four special Shabbats which precede the holiday of Passover. Mostly this haftarah concerns commandments for special sacrifices and rituals relating to the new moon and Passover. But at the very end of the haftarah, which is from Ezekiel, it is written in 46:16, “Thus saith the Lord God: If the prince makes a gift to any of his sons it shall become the latter’s inheritance; it shall pass on to his sons; it is their holding by inheritance. But if he makes a gift from his inheritance to any of his subjects, it shall only belong to the latter until the year of release. Then it shall revert to the prince; his inheritance must by all means pass on to his sons.”

It seems that the Torah is teaching about the importance of keeping the prince’s property within his line–no matter whom he left it to, when the Jubilee year arrived it would revert to his sons or to him if he were still alive. My generation, the sons, if you will, is poised to inherit the property of the princes, you gentlemen of the BEKI Men’s Club. But I, as one of the generation of the sons, have found it difficult to find “brothers” that is, others of my generation. Despite my urgings, they seem reluctant to step forward to claim their “inheritance”, the Men’s Club. I’m beginning to wonder whether there are any men who are of the same “line of thought” as the princes. They seem to be preoccupied with other concerns, heavy work loads, the difficulty of finding time to be with their families in these stress-filled ’90s. They put their time in at the shul, but it’s in mixed forums, which, after all, mirror their work-places. They may simply be from a different line, men of a different line of thought, a different world-view.

And if there are no sons, to whom does the inheritance pass? I turn to Numbers Chapter 27, from parshat Pinchas. “The daughters of Zeloph’chad, of Manassite family…they stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the chieftains, and the whole assembly, at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and they said, (v.3) “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not one of the faction, Korach’s faction, which banded together against the Lord, but died for his own sin; and he has left no sons. Let not our father’s name be lost to his clan just because he had no son! Give us a holding among our father’s kinsmen.” Moses brought their case before the Lord. And the Lord said to Moses, (v.7) “The plea of Zeloph’chad’s daughters is just: you should give them a hereditary holding among their father’s kinsmen; transfer their father’s share to them.”

Am I suggesting that the Men’s Club should become a women’s organization? Not necessarily. But the Torah does seem to be teaching that in cases where the normal line of inheritance is blocked by unusual circumstances, bold solutions, even those which challenge the conventions of gender may be in order. How is the Men’s Club to respond to the radical changes in gender roles which we have seen in the last twenty-five years?

This is not a question that I have the answer to–and yet it is a question that needs to be addressed–for the sake of the sons, the daughters and the princes. Shabbat shalom.

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