Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Pinchas - 5776

Dear friends,

Most laws were given to Moses by G-d and he taught them to the people. There were, however, several situations where the law was not clear or seemed unfair, and the people raised the issue before Moses.

In this Parasha we have one of those situations. We are in the final stages before entering the Promised Land. A census is taken and Moses is instructed to divide the land among the various tribes. The larger tribes will get more land than the smaller ones and everything will be done by lottery.

People are counted based on their patriarchal lineage. The laws of inheritance dictate that the land is given to the father and is passed down to the sons, because when the girls get married they leave their homestead and take the name of their husband.

Zelophehad, from the tribe of Menasseh, from the tribe of Joseph, had died and he had no sons - only five daughters. Upon hearing the laws of inheritance, the five daughters approached Moses, Elazar the High Priest, and the leaders of Israel, and explained that this law is not fair. Just because there are no sons, why should their father's name be lost for future generations as there will be no homestead in his name? That is not fair.

Moses inquires from G-d what to do. G-d responds, "The plea of the daughters of Zelophehad is just. You will surely give them a hereditary holding among their father's kinsmen, transfer their father's share to them." (Numbers 27:7)

You must have heard the saying that every person has three names:

  1. The name given by his/her parents, implying all the hopes and aspirations they had for this child.
  2. The name that your friends give you, expressing how others see you, and
  3. The name that you earn based on the kind of life you lead.

From this Parasha we learn the importance of a fourth name: The name that we leave after we are gone. Do we care? How do we want our descendants, our community to remember us. For the daughters of Zelophehad it was important that their father's name be remembered.

A good name does not come easily. One has to work on it and earn it and earn the respect that is implied when that name is mentioned.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram