What The Daughters Of Zelophehat Teach Us About The Electoral College
How Change Is Accomplished -The Daughters Of Zelophehad
There is one immutable law of parenting. Parents will make choices for the benefit of their children, and children will blame some of those choices for adversely affecting their lives. When I was born apparently there was a Jewish Emily Post guide to parental etiquette. It stated that the naming rights to the first born went to the mother. As such my mother’s two deceased grandparents who she never met were going to receive their posterity through the names she was giving me, and that is where the fun starts. It seems that both grandparents were named Pinhas. Calling me Pinhas to the power of 2 was not going to work, so the natural and gracious move would have been to ask my father for a middle name suggestion. That may have been the “natural” move but not if you knew my mother. It was her privilege and she was not sharing, so the solution was to simply give me only one name. That in itself was survivable until you realize that with Plotkin as a last name I was branded with the initials P.P. Unless your initials are P.P. you probably have no idea how many times in school your initials are used, but you probably have an inkling of how “gracious and accepting” classmates are at that age. With naming came much suffering and an unanswered question, couldn’t you have seen the initials and thrown in something for a middle name? In adulthood I have come to see many famous P.P.’s. The star of Star Wars’ Mandalorian is Pedro Pascal, and there are the actresses Parker Posey and Paula Prentiss who went to “where the boys are”. There was the singer Patti Page and the great artist Pablo Picasso whose name on a painting is worth many millions. One wonders if a P. P. would have impacted on his success? Paulina Porizkova was on the Sports Illustrated bathing suit cover so who even noticed her initials? Penny Pritzker from the family that owns Hyatt could easily have purchased a middle name. Even Peter Parker was better known as Spiderman. In fact, like Pope Paul, I would bet that all these P.P.’s and more were given a middle name that got them through school unscathed. They got the middle name I did not, but I did get one consolation price that I am grateful for. I have a Hebrew name, Pinhas, which has the distinction of being one of just two Torah portions that carry a Jewish name. Yes, there are the portions of Noah, Jethro, Balak and the Life of Sarah (not really a name but a sentence), but they are all non-Jews. Only the Jew Korach rates a parsha, and it doesn’t end well for him. All of this is to introduce my parsha, Pinhas that we will read this Shabbat both in Israel and the Diaspora. In this portion we are introduced to the 5 daughters of Mr. Zelophehad, who have no father. He died in the desert as a consequence of sinful behavior. They come to Moses with a question/ request. They have no brothers and as inherited land went to the sons, who would inherit their father’s land? Moses had divided the entire land of Canaan into tribal territories that were subdivided into family portions. When the land was conquered perhaps Mr. Zelophehad would have developed a ranch and raised cattle on the Circle Z Ranch, but now there would be no one to inherit his land and more important, no one to carry on his name. Could they inherit the land, they asked? Moses was stuck. On the one hand the law was well established. Men inherited land and passed it on to their sons, or at least the oldest son. That would seem to leave the women out and doom their father’s name to obscurity. On the other hand, they seemed to have a cogent and just request. So, what did Moses do? He punted. He went to ask God, and God came through as we would expect. Just and fair must trump law and precedent,and so the girls were to get the land and the Circle Z Ranch would live on and prosper. This is a great example that there must be a process to challenge law and precedent when they lead to unjust solutions. Unfortunately, God has not been available for appointments and immediate rulings for a long time, so Jewish law has a way of evolving and changing in light of changing conditions. But what do we do in a country like ours which needs change and does not have an immediate access to Divine rulings? We have inequities, we have injustices. Some are situational, some are corruption and some are systemic. They beg to be addressed and changed and yet many people and leaders are frozen in responding because they say, “that is the law, or that is the way it has always been and who are we to mess with it?” We are entering serious election season. We may have a very close election. In what democratic country that votes directly for its leader does a secondary group do the electing? In what democratic country can a candidate win the popular vote and still not win the election? In my recent past that is exactly what I have witnessed, and living in Florida I have witnessed it from a ring side seat. We have an Electoral College that actually elects the President and the Vice President and until the other day’s Supreme Court ruling allowed rogue delegates to not follow the established method of allocating votes and vote for whomever they wanted. Is this any way to elect our leaders? We the People, do not get to directly vote for our leaders? This isn’t a partisan issue though I see why it appears that way. Life has an interesting way of changing. There may come a day when Republicans might outvote the Democrats in the general election and be stymied by the Electoral College vote. They will then dislike the process and they should. In the 91st congress the Democratically led House voted to change the way we elect our President but the Democratic led Senate would not pass it. It is not a partisan decision to keep the Electoral College, it is just a wrong one. The daughters of Zelophehad asked to change an unjust precedent we should too. As always share with your friends and if they would like to be added to this list and receive my messages in their email please forward me their email address.