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Pinchas 5780 ~ July 10, 2020

Our country has been through several monumental changes during this past half a year. Needless to say, our lives have been dramatically altered due to them.

A recent article in the Washington Post specifically related to global warming suggests that the impact of our being more responsible to our environment will not be realized for almost twenty years. When most of our world came to a standstill during the first few months of Covid 19, that partial change of our use of fossil fuels, was noted by scientists as to its positive effect on our climate. The scientists reviewing that impact maintain that the resulting change was short lived due to our return to a more normal routine in our lives. It is the discussion that is important. The decisions that we make from those talks, will be the benefit. It is our children and grandchildren who will most likely be the ones who benefit from the choices we make today.

The impact from some of the other changes will be more immediate – such as how we will teach history or live history and how we need to value our fellow human being. Needless to say, that is not solely related to the more difficult question of the racial tensions (including a recent anti-Semitic one launched against the New England Patriots Julian Edelman) that long have been part of our world, but the simpler questions of protecting others and ourselves in this pandemic era. Once again, the discussions and choices may have an effect upon our own personal lives, but it is our consideration of the others in our world that is paramount.

Our Torah reading shares with us not only the concepts surrounding such changes but thought patterns related to them. Following the successful eradication of a pandemic within the Israelite camp, Moses is confronted by the daughters of Zelophchad with a most interesting question, for their time. Using impeccable logic, they turn to Moshe and request that they receive their father’s share of the land of Israel. The request might not seem unusual in our time. However, back in the time of the Torah, inheritance was passed down solely through the sons. In their argument or might we say legal brief, they remind Moshe of the importance of carrying on their father’s name through the inheritance. Without that passing down from generation to generation, his name might be forgotten for all time. Moses, turns to G-d for direction and a legal response. Moshe returns to the daughter informing them that their arguments were impressive and forceful. A whole new set of inheritance rules were then created that would go even beyond their request, to protect the valuable inheritance and reputation of an individual from one generation to the next.

Immediately following the ruling of the Supreme Authority, according to the medieval commentary Rashi, Moses makes somewhat of a similar request to G-d. His goal is to protect his legacy and his name as well. As we walk through the story, Moses has been made to understand that he will not enter the Promised Land, not only as a leader, but physically. Similar to his brother Aaron, he will have a quite peaceful end of life. (Something, I am certain that we all wish for.) Moshe then uses a similar logic to that of the daughters of Zelophchad, requesting that one of his sons inherit his place in the community, as the political and spiritual leader of the Israelite nation. Within his argument, I am certain that Moshe would suggest that he most deserving of that consideration, due to his role in history. He may have also used the argument that his brother Aaron’s sons, and the generations that follow, continue on as the Kohanim. Rightfully, his sons, are entitled to the same. Then using the logic of the daughters of Zelophchad, and the decision of the Supreme Being and Authority, G-d Himself, should Moshe’s sons not be the next in line to lead the Israelite nation?

The logic of Moses is not ignored by G-d. I am certain it was quite impressive. Was his request altruistic – for the sake of the Israelite people? Or perhaps, as some rabbis suggest that it was nepotism at its best. Might we think that Moshe, for one instance, was narcistic? Reading the next few statements in the Torah, G-d’s answer is in the negative to Moshe. It appears that Moshe immediately accepts the response. The commentaries maintain that while Moshe made the request, in truth he was actually looking out for the best interest of the people. Joshua, now not only continues on as his faithful student. As Moshe’s apprentice, heir apparent to the leadership, he will begin to gain the acceptance of the Israelite nation, as they continue on the last leg of their journey in the wilderness.

What we gain from this week’s portion is that the dialogue, the questions, and the answers are key to guiding us on our path to the Promised Land. Our responses should be those that are not only best for us and individuals, but what are best for our community and world.

Shabbat shalom.

Rabbi K

Fri, June 24 2022 25 Sivan 5782