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Parashat Pinchas: Inheritance

What is an inheritance? What does it mean to inherit something? Is a inheritance just a birthright or is there a deeper responsibility? In this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas, G-d asks Moses and Eleazar (the new High Priest after Aaron’s death), “Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel from twenty years old and upwards, following their fathers' houses, all that are fit to go out to war in Israel (Numbers 26:2).” In part to see how many are left in wake of the plague that overtook them, and in part to know how many are in each tribe so G-d can give each tribe a portion of the Promised Land according to their numbers. After the census is taken when land is given to each tribe, the daughters of Zelophehad approach Moses and other leaders of Israel with a request. They ask if they can inherit the land that would have gone to their father since he died in the wilderness without any sons. So Moses brings their case to G-d and G-d decides that they should inherit the land. G-d further decrees, “If a man dies without leaving a son, you shall transfer his property to his daughter (Numbers 27: 8).”

So I ask again, what does it mean to inherit something? G-d gave us, gave each tribe (except for the Levites because they will be serving G-d), both sons and daughters a portion of the Promised Land. But what did that mean for them? And what does that mean for us now? According to the Kabbalistic masters, “Every soul has a portion in the land - a piece of G-d’s world that he or she has been charged to to sanctify.” For many of us we inherit our through our blood, and for some by choice. Today we not only have land, but also a rich heritage of traditions. Our inheritance is more than just earth or blood, we have history. More than that we have a Religion, we have a Community, we have a People. We have laws and beliefs. Our journey in the wilderness was just the beginning. We have come a long way since then.

Tonight at your Shabbat table, think about what it means to be an inheritor of Judaism? What have we inherited by being Jewish? What does this mean for each and every one of us to have a portion? Ask yourself, how can you continue to sanctify your portion?

Shabbat Shalom!