The Daughters Came Forward + The Master's Tools

(א) וַתִּקְרַ֜בְנָה בְּנ֣וֹת צְלָפְחָ֗ד בֶּן־חֵ֤פֶר בֶּן־גִּלְעָד֙ בֶּן־מָכִ֣יר בֶּן־מְנַשֶּׁ֔ה לְמִשְׁפְּחֹ֖ת מְנַשֶּׁ֣ה בֶן־יוֹסֵ֑ף וְאֵ֙לֶּה֙ שְׁמ֣וֹת בְּנֹתָ֔יו מַחְלָ֣ה נֹעָ֔ה וְחָגְלָ֥ה וּמִלְכָּ֖ה וְתִרְצָֽה׃ (ב) וַֽתַּעֲמֹ֜דְנָה לִפְנֵ֣י מֹשֶׁ֗ה וְלִפְנֵי֙ אֶלְעָזָ֣ר הַכֹּהֵ֔ן וְלִפְנֵ֥י הַנְּשִׂיאִ֖ם וְכָל־הָעֵדָ֑ה פֶּ֥תַח אֹֽהֶל־מוֹעֵ֖ד לֵאמֹֽר׃ (ג) אָבִינוּ֮ מֵ֣ת בַּמִּדְבָּר֒ וְה֨וּא לֹא־הָיָ֜ה בְּת֣וֹךְ הָעֵדָ֗ה הַנּוֹעָדִ֛ים עַל־יְהוָ֖ה בַּעֲדַת־קֹ֑רַח כִּֽי־בְחֶטְא֣וֹ מֵ֔ת וּבָנִ֖ים לֹא־הָ֥יוּ לֽוֹ׃ (ד) לָ֣מָּה יִגָּרַ֤ע שֵׁם־אָבִ֙ינוּ֙ מִתּ֣וֹךְ מִשְׁפַּחְתּ֔וֹ כִּ֛י אֵ֥ין ל֖וֹ בֵּ֑ן תְּנָה־לָּ֣נוּ אֲחֻזָּ֔ה בְּת֖וֹךְ אֲחֵ֥י אָבִֽינוּ׃ (ה) וַיַּקְרֵ֥ב מֹשֶׁ֛ה אֶת־מִשְׁפָּטָ֖ן לִפְנֵ֥י יְהוָֽה׃ (ס) (ו) וַיֹּ֥אמֶר יְהוָ֖ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר׃ (ז) כֵּ֗ן בְּנ֣וֹת צְלָפְחָד֮ דֹּבְרֹת֒ נָתֹ֨ן תִּתֵּ֤ן לָהֶם֙ אֲחֻזַּ֣ת נַחֲלָ֔ה בְּת֖וֹךְ אֲחֵ֣י אֲבִיהֶ֑ם וְהַֽעֲבַרְתָּ֛ אֶת־נַחֲלַ֥ת אֲבִיהֶ֖ן לָהֶֽן׃ (ח) וְאֶל־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל תְּדַבֵּ֣ר לֵאמֹ֑ר אִ֣ישׁ כִּֽי־יָמ֗וּת וּבֵן֙ אֵ֣ין ל֔וֹ וְהַֽעֲבַרְתֶּ֥ם אֶת־נַחֲלָת֖וֹ לְבִתּֽוֹ׃

(1) The daughters of Tzelofchad, of Manassite family—son of Hepher son of Gilead son of Machir son of Manasseh son of Joseph—came forward. The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. (2) They stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the chieftains, and the whole assembly, at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and they said, (3) “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not one of the faction, Korah’s faction, which banded together against the LORD, but died for his own sin; and he has left no sons. (4) 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!” (5) Moses brought their case before the LORD. (6) And the LORD said to Moses, (7) “The plea of Tzelofchad’s daughters is just: you should give them a hereditary holding among their father’s kinsmen; transfer their father’s share to them. (8) “Further, speak to the Israelite people as follows: ‘If a man dies without leaving a son, you shall transfer his property to his daughter.

Comprehension: What’s the claim?

Discussion: What makes it effective?

Discussion #2: What’s awesome about this for you, and where does it fall short as a mode of change?

(יא) דָּבָר אַחֵר, וַתִּקְרַבְנָה בְּנוֹת צְלָפְחָד וגו', גְּדֻלָּה לָהֶן וּגְדֻלָּה לַאֲבִיהֶן, גְדֻלָּה לְמָכִיר וּגְדֻלָּה לְיוֹסֵף שֶׁכָּךְ יָצְאוּ מִמֶּנּוּ נָשִׁים חֲכָמוֹת וְצִדְקָנִיּוֹת, מָה חָכְמָתָן, שֶׁלְּפִי שָׁעָה דִּבְּרוּ, שֶׁהָיָה משֶׁה עוֹסֵק בְּפָרָשַׁת נַחֲלוֹת ...

"The daughters of Tzelofchad came forward": This was greatness for them and greatness for their father; greatness also for Machir as well as for Joseph, that such women came forth from them. They were wise and righteous women. What was their wisdom? They spoke at the appropriate moment, for Moses was engaged upon the subject of inheritances ...

​​​​​​​Comprehension/discussion: What does this midrash see as the victory of the story?

Audre Lorde, The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master's House

For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master's house as their only source of support.

Share: Have you heard this used before? Where? How do you feel about it?

Discussion: How might this apply (or not) to the story about b'not Tzelofchad?

Discussion #2: Who is the master? What are his tools?

דרשניות הן שהיו אומרות אילו היה [לו] בן לא דברנו והתניא בת אמר ר' ירמיה סמי מכאן בת אביי אמר אפילו היה בת לבן לא דברנו

That they are darshaniyot comes from the fact that they were saying: If our father had had a son, we would not have spoken. But isn’t it taught [in a b’raita]: [if he had had a] daughter? Rabbi Yirmeya said: Delete from the here the word daughter. Abaye said: Even if there was a daughter of a son, we would not have spoken.

Discussion: What’s the significance of calling the women darshaniyot? Who gets to be a darshan?

(א) ותקרבנה בנות צלפחד - כיון ששמעו בנות צלפחד שהארץ מתחלקת לשבטים ולא לנקבות, נתקבצו כולן זו על זו ליטול עצה. אמרו: לא כרחמי ב"ו רחמי המקום! ב"ו רחמיו על הזכרים יותר מן הנקבות, אבל מי שאמר והיה העולם אינו כן, אלא על הזכרים ועל הנקבות, רחמיו על הכל, שנאמר תהלים קמה טוב ה' לכל ורחמיו על כל מעשיו:

(1) "And there drew near the daughters of Tzelofchad": When the daughters of Tzelofchad heard that the land was to be apportioned to the tribes and not to females, they gathered together to take counsel, saying: Not as the mercies of flesh and blood are the mercies of the L-rd. The mercies of flesh and blood are greater for males than for females. Not so the mercies of He who spoke and brought the world into being. His mercies are for males and females (equally). His mercies are for all! As it is written (Psalms 145:9) "The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are upon all of His creations."

Discussion: What are the potential paths of [political] action stemming from the understanding that humankind does not show mercy to all, but Hashem does? (Goal: get people talking about apologetics)

אלו עומדים בדור המדבר זכו ליטול שכר כולן, ללמדך באיזה שעה עמדו לפני משה בשעה שאמרו ישראל נתנה ראש אמר להן משה והלא ישראל מבקשין לחזור למצרים ואתנה מבקשות נחלה בארץ, אמרו יודעות אנו שסוף כל ישראל להחזיק בארץ שנאמר עת לעשות לה' הפרו תורתך אל תהי קורא כן אלא הפרו תורתך עת לעשות לה'

These [women] rose up in the generation of the wilderness and merited to take the reward of all of them. This teaches you at what moment they stood before Moses--at the moment that Israel were saying, Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt! Moses said, But Israel are demanding to return to Egypt, and you demand an inheritance in the Land! They answered, We know that in the end all Israel will claim their share in the Land, as it is said, “It is a time to act for God--they have transgressed Your Torah!” Don’t read like this; read “They have transgressed Your Torah in acting for God!”

(translation Dr. Avivah Zornberg)

Comprehension: What is the alternative reading of b’not Tzelofchad’s answer to Moshe? [How] is it applicable to their actions?

Discussion: How do we communally decide whether a “transgression” is “for” or “against” God?

Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, To Be or Not to Be: A tale of Five Sisters (2015)

The reference to their father’s sin is also mysterious … Perhaps his daughters fear that Moses may be prejudiced against them if their father was party to that rebellion that was directed against the leadership of Moses and Aaron? On this reading, the women are aware of possible bias that needs to be neutralized.

In other words, they have a realistic sense of the political field in which they must stake their claim. A similar awareness informs the Zohar’s explanation of Moses’ referring the case to God (Num. 27:5): he rescues himself from the case, to avoid any suspicion of prejudice against Tzelofchad as a rebel against Moses’ leadership. Here, again, is a reminder that truth is to be found within a force field of political power.

ויקרב משה את משפטן. נִתְעַלְּמָה הֲלָכָה מִמֶּנּוּ, וְכָאן נִפְרַע עַל שֶׁנָּטַל עֲטָרָה לוֹמַר (דברים א') "וְהַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר יִקְשֶׁה מִכֶּם תַּקְרִבוּן אֵלַי"; דָּ"אַ — רְאוּיָה הָיְתָה פָרָשָׁה זוֹ לְהִכָּתֵב עַל יְדֵי מֹשֶׁה, אֶלָּא שֶׁזָּכוּ בְנוֹת צְלָפְחָד וְנִכְתְּבָה עַל יָדָן (בבא בתרא קי"ט; סנהדרין ח'):

And Moses brought their case: The law was concealed from him. Here he was punished for taking a “crown” (i.e. authority) by saying, (Deuteronomy 1:17) “Any matter which is too difficult for you, you shall bring to me”. Alternatively, this chapter ought to have been written by Moses, but the daughters of Tzelofchad had so much merit, it was written through them

אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא ... הַדִּין שֶׁאֵין אַתָּה יוֹדֵעַ הַנָּשִׁים דָּנִין אוֹתוֹ.

"The law that you don't know, women discuss it"

Micah White, The Master's Tools: The Wisdom of Audre Lorde

Every time someone proposes that we take the marketplace back from the megacorps ... there is a chorus of naysayers: “But you can’t use capitalism/money/advertising to dismantle consumerism/globalization/mental pollution!” But before we allow ourselves to be derailed from hope for a self-funded global anticapitalist movement strong enough to take its followers out of the consumer rat race, let’s pause a moment and consider what Audre Lorde might have actually meant.

If we go back 25 years to the first utterance of Lorde’s categorical imperative, we will find that she did not intend to develop a reactionary weapon against revolutionary experimentation. It was actually quite the opposite. Speaking of her experiences as a black lesbian feminist, she derided the then-burgeoning feminist academia for its heterosexual white bias. She wrote of the need to embrace difference – not to “merely tolerate” people who are different, but to embrace difference because it provides a “fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic.” Her concern was that feminist academia had coalesced around a false consensus that left out the voices of those whose difference was essential to the project of overturning patriarchy. In other words, she attempted to draft an ethical principle that would overthrow the status quo: We cannot disrupt our oppression using the logic that justifies our oppression. Lorde asked, “What does it mean when the tools of a racist patriarchy are used to examine the fruits of that same patriarchy?” And she responded, “It means that only the most narrow perimeters of change are possible and allowable.”

Let's reclaim our stolen tools.

It is a tragically ironic that a saying originally intended to be a revolutionary tool has come to play a reactionary shutdown role. But if we give Audre Lorde back her voice, we will find that she does not wish us to cower in fear of the master. Instead, she wanted us to stand up, to break the false consensus that limits our options and to act boldly.

Audre Lorde, The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master's House

The absence of any consideration of lesbian consciousness or the consciousness of Third World women leaves a serious gap within this conference and within the papers presented here. For example, in a paper on material relationships between women, I was conscious of an either/or model of nurturing which totally dismissed my knowledge as a Black lesbian. In this paper there was no examination of mutuality between women, no systems of shared support, no interdependence as exists between lesbians and women identified women. Yet it is only in the patriarchal model of nurturance that women "who attempt to emancipate themselves pay perhaps too high a price for the results," as this paper states.

[...]

Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society's definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference -- those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older -- know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master's house as their only source of support. Poor women and women of Color know there is a difference between the daily manifestations of marital slavery and prostitution because it is our daughters who line 42nd Street. If white American feminist theory need not deal with the differences between us, and the resulting difference in our oppressions, then how do you deal with the fact that the women who clean your houses and tend your children while you attend conferences on feminist theory are, for the most part, poor women and women of Color? What is the theory behind racist feminism?

[...]

Racism and homophobia are real conditions of all our lives in this place and time. I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives there. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices

Full text: http://s18.middlebury.edu/AMST0325A/Lorde_The_Masters_Tools.pdf