Monday, October 12, 2009

Rightfully Mine: God's Equal Rights Amendments

Rightfully Mine: God’s Equal Rights Amendments:

Author: Aggie Villanueva

Women’s rights and equal rights for everyone has been an issue and fight since time began. Throughout the ages women have been viewed as a homemaker, cook, mother and caretaker of the man and the home. Women’s opinions were not valued or even sought after. Freedom of speech is for everyone and not just the few. Ideals, thoughts and viewpoints and discussions become more interesting and pertinent when everyone is included. But, not in Biblical times. Not by the men of the nation of Israel. Women did not have the right to choose their husbands or where they lived. Women were not allowed to own land or property or be part of the law making process of their tribes. So, whom does God’s Equal Rights Amendments include? I would think everyone.

When faced with adversity and dissension the women of Israel often looked to the men for solutions and answers. Each family had a man that was their leader and would deal with any important issues that came up. Outspoken, tenacious and fighting for the rights of women Ritzpah should have been born in the 20th century. During Biblical times women were not allowed to speak up for themselves nor were they allowed to own land. But, when the head of the family Zelophehad nears death and has no sons to in order to get part of the land Moses is dividing among the men of Israel, it is Ritzpah who speaks out and fights for what is rightfully hers and her families, the land that is owed to her father. Asking why her father’s name should be stricken from that of Israel, she stands up for her family and for all women in order to get a piece of the land that they can call their own. What about EQUAL RIGHTS?

When Rizpah faces Moses and explains why she feels that her family should be included in receiving their inheritance, many of the men sneer at her including the one who is proposing that she marry him and let him take care of her and her invalid sister. But, she declines and speaks up in front of the council and the result will surprise the reader and make you proud of her. Knowing that the only reason he wants to marry her is for her land and not her.

Women have been fighting for equality since the beginning of time. Whether it is Susan B. Anthony fighting for women’s right to vote or equal rights in the workplace or being allowed to speak up for yourself against the ideas and thoughts of men, women have been and still are in many countries not allowed to show a dissenting opinion against men. Women in Iran, Afghanistan and many other countries today would love to have someone like Ritzpah have the courage and foresight and wisdom to stand up to a council of men and be heard.

Ritzpah has been in love with Caleb, now 79 years old since she can remember. Hanniel, her cousin has been smitten with her and has repeatedly asked for her hand in marriage only to be declined by her. Caleb, although he cares for her does not feel that he would be right for Ritzpah because of their age difference and more. As her words are heard by Moses and he speaks with Elohim and receives an answer that she deserves the land and her family’s inheritance she and Caleb give in to their feelings and decide to marry. But, fate will not grant her wish.

As in today’s society when you marry out of your faith, ethnic group or background you often find those who will try and block your decision. Even in Biblical times although all of Israel belonged to one God there were different tribes. Since Caleb and Rizpah were from different tribes they could not marry as willed by Elohim. Sacrifice is something all too familiar to Rizpah and her family. But, how much will God as her to give up before she loses her faith? Strong willed and determined to seek out Caleb only to learn from him that he will not go against what God has declared and they cannot marry.

Her father before he died blessed each of his children. The first who is an invalid will possess the powerful strength of love. The next daughter he told that she has spurned her dreams but should not forsake hope and he wished her sense of duty and hope bestowed on her children. Next, her explained to his fourth daughter that beauty is not everything and she must become strong in faith. The fifth daughter he stated will hold goodness as her crown and bring joy to her family. Finally, Ritpah was called before him and this is where the author makes a real statement about what she is about to encounter and how what her father has bestowed upon will intertwine and envelope the character’s future and fate. “You will stand for justice and justice will circumcise you.” As she stood in front of Moses and the council fighting for her family and the land they so rightly deserved she hoped for justice and God granted it. But, at what price?

Salu, her uncle decides to come to her with rage in his heart and attacks her and her sister Mahlah. Without the help of Hanniel the man who truly loves her fate would have been much worse as Salu’s intensions were anything but honorable.

How long will Hanniel wait for her? Are these commandments really equal? Who decides if you are allowed to marry or not? Who decides what tribe you belong to and who decides whether a woman can speak up for herself or not?

The author has helped to raise many questions that women addressed long ago and in many countries today. Why can’t the women in Afghanistan fight for what they believe and start speaking up more? Why should anyone’s voice not be heard? The world today is not so different from Biblical times but they did not have Rizpah, who does remind the reviewer of herself in many ways. Speaking her mind and really fighting for her beliefs, I identify with her and respect what she tried to do for herself, her family and for other women. But, gaining the respect of the men of the other tribes was not enough; losing the man she loved would yield more unhappiness for her.

The fate of Israel is decided and even though they have begun their trip to where they will live, God has brought strife and death upon Israel for one man has taken something from the battle of Jordan and the entire nation will suffer. God decides the fate of a man, the tribe the nation and unless you live by his commandments and honor his wishes he will not carry through with his protection as the people of Israel learned from Joshua and the man who stole found out when his tribe was brought in front of Joshua and his fate decided.

With the leadership of Joshua the nation of Israel receives God’s laws, which they all must abide in order to live in peace. The author related both what will happen if you disobey his laws and what the nation will reap if they live by his laws.

This story is about family loyalty, devotion, love and understanding and even more forgiveness. No matter what happens among the five sisters, no matter what quarrels they encounter, their bonds grow stronger and their love for each other never falters. When the younger sister goes into labor too early and Hanniel returns from war and is ill the entire family bans together to help both the youngest sister and Hanniel.

When reality finally settles in Rizpah realizes that she spent her entire life pining away for things she could not have and man that was not destined to be hers. Men very rarely had long conversations with women about God’s purpose for his people or of the future. Rizpah had a place where she felt safe and where she could think about her life and what she had sacrificed and lost. Freeing herself from the bonds that tied her thoughts to Caleb and the past she finally realized her destiny. Taking up residence beneath the shadow of Elohim’s love, in the region that was rightfully hers beneath the towering willow. Sometimes what is right in front of us is often not what we see. Rizpah learns many lessons about herself, her true feelings about her family and about her life and finally finding her place when she thought she had none.

I give this book Five Golden Arks for everyone to follow God’s Equal Rights Amendments and Five Stars for each of the five sisters in this outstanding and thought provoking novel.

Fran Lewis