Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Bamidbar: 27:1-11

Devora was called into one of the senior partners’ offices at Watkins, Guthof and Schwartz five or six times a day for some sort of consultation, but today was different. Today was her yearly review. She was the ranking associate in the law firm for matters of health insurance law, and she was definitely a valued employee. She always got glowing reviews, but to date she had not gotten the nod for partnership. Devora had two more years of eligibility before she lost her shot. Still, she had performed admirably this year, putting in long hours and achieving impressive results. A recent decision that she had worked on extensively had gone in their client’s favor, netting the law firm a hefty sum. It was reasonable to assume that this was her year.

Maury Simon shook Devora’s hand as she walked into his office. She smiled politely and sat in his overstuffed leather chair. Maury’s office looked like the kind of room regal lawyers had in the movies. Wall to wall bookcases stacked with imposing law tomes (had most of them ever been opened?). Dark mahogany furniture. A desk the size of a small aircraft carrier. On his desk was the perfunctory picture of Maury’s wife and kids, though Devora could have sworn he had divorced his wife years before and hadn’t remarried.

To a lawyer who spends a lot of time in the courtroom, questioning witnesses or sizing up the opposing counsel, body language is everything. It was obvious that Maury Simon was not a poker player. The first thing that struck Devora was that when she smiled at Maury, he did not smile back. This was not the sign of a glowing review. The second thing she noted was the deep sigh he emitted before he began speaking. Also not a good sign.

Maury began with the usual platitudes. Blah, blah, blah, valued associate, blah, blah, top researcher, blah, blah, grace under pressure,blah, courtroom experience, blah, blah. Devora tuned back in when Maury seemed to be coming to the bottom line.

“The thing is, Debrah, we just think you need a little bit more seasoning. I’m sure you’ll make partner eventually, but this just isn’t your year. We hope you regard this as a constructive development for—“

Devora looked out the window at the view of midtown 30 stories below. The people on the sidewalk looked like ants. The taxis shooting by were Matchbox cars. How little it all looked, almost unreal. Soon she would be one of the ants on the street.

“—in the interest of the firm. We hope you understand.”

Devora smiled at Maury Simon, whom at present was doing his best to muster a look of fatherly concern. She had been waiting for this moment for some time.

“Oh, I understand, Maury, I understand quite well. I understand that in the last eight years, six male associates have made partner and not one female associate. I understand that this firm has 30 men who are partners and three women. I understand that the female partners and associates—and for that matter all the female employees of Watkins, Guthof and Schwartz—walk around the halls here like they accidentally wandered into the Boys’ Club.

“I also understand that I’m a valuable commodity, whether I’m genetically XY or XX. That’s why Roman, Epstein and Harper hired me for a killer salary with an ironclad guarantee of partnership in one year. I’m giving my 30 days notice effective immediately.”

Devora rose from her chair and extended her arm across the table, shaking the limp hand of the still stunned Maury Simon.

“Nice talking with you, Maury. Bye now.”

Devora walked out of the office and closed the door behind her. She never felt better. As an afterthought, she kicked the heavy wood door back open with her stiletto heels.

“And Maury? Long live Bnot Tzlafchad!”

It was Parshat Pinchas, after all.

Larry Stiefel

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