…when we circumcise our hearts we can then turn our necks outward to the world, vulnerable, nakedly open to the experiences of others. The internal work cannot be separated from the work of changing the world, of standing shoulder to shoulder with those who are oppressed. We cannot have one without the other.
I believe, however, that antisemitism is not eternal or inevitable. It is something we can overcome, if we understand it properly. Common references to antisemitism as “the world’s oldest hatred” obscure the ways that it actually functions and who it benefits.
If the wood gatherer teaches us about the threat of a raid on the commons, the sisters reinforce the lesson by anticipating a more subtle version of it. Consider what would have happened had the daughters not acted. In short, Zelophehad’s brothers likely would have fought over who should get their brother’s land. At the extreme, if all it takes to inherit land is to be the last brother standing, we face the dire prospect of a fratricidal free-for-all.