Why This Week’s Parsha Is Devastating For Women—And What Can Be Done About It

The Torah portion we read this coming Shabbat starts with the story of Yitro, Moses’s father-in-law, giving him some tips about refining his leadership model, delegating, becoming more effective in his leadership.

Then, fast-forward. The people Israel are waiting at the base of Mt. Sinai, while God gives instructions to Moses. God tells Moses to קדש the people—to make them holy, sanctified, set-apart.

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר ה’ אֶל־מֹשֶׁה֙ לֵ֣ךְ אֶל־הָעָ֔ם וְקִדַּשְׁתָּ֥ם הַיּ֖וֹם וּמָחָ֑ר וְכִבְּס֖וּ שִׂמְלֹתָֽם׃

“God said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and make-holy them today and tomorrow. They should wash their clothes.'”

It’s clear from the verb that Moses needs to do a thing to them. So then Moses goes back, and he does it! He קדש them. Sanctifies, makes holy, sets apart, something. It’s still not clear what the action is, but he does it. And, as instructed, laundry happens.

וַיֵּ֧רֶד מֹשֶׁ֛ה מִן־הָהָ֖ר אֶל־הָעָ֑ם וַיְקַדֵּשׁ֙ אֶת־הָעָ֔ם וַֽיְכַבְּס֖וּ שִׂמְלֹתָֽם׃

“Moses came down from the mountain to the people and made-holy them, and they washed their clothes.”

And then—he keeps talking.

“וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אֶל־הָעָ֔ם הֱי֥וּ נְכֹנִ֖ים לִשְׁלֹ֣שֶׁת יָמִ֑ים אַֽל־תִּגְּשׁ֖וּ אֶל־אִשָּֽׁה׃

“And he said to the people, ‘Be ready for the third day: do not go near a woman.'”