Mattot-Masei – 4 August 2016 / 29th Tamuz, 5776

This week’s parasha (Torah portion) contains a law about a woman taking a vow and the ability of her father, if she is stilling living in his house, to cancel the vow if he does so on the same day that she makes it. (Num. 30:4-6) It sounds very sexist, right?  And it is, and so was the patriarchal society out of which this law came.   We need not embrace the law or the sexism today, but is there something we can learn from it?  Rabbi Laura Geller suggests the following message:  If we hear or read or witness something wrong, we must speak up immediately or the opportunity will pass us by. And our silence can be interpreted as our consent or assent. If the father of the woman taking a self-imposed law thought that her vow might harm herself or her family, he was duty bound to annul it. (Geller, Text Messages, pp. 208-210.)  If we witness harmful speech in our homes, on social media, in the workplace or when out for a social evening with friends, we need to muster the courage to speak up.  Letting bullying or racist or sexist comments or gossip go by without commenting is like consenting to what was said.