Pinchas – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

The Sedra this week seems strangely disjointed. The story of Pinchas and his zealotry could be seen as belonging to the events described in last week’s’ Parasha or, rationally, in its entirety, this week. Knowing that he will not be allowed to accompany the people into the land Moses prepares to hand the mantle to Joshua and reiterates the pattern of life that we were to follow. The festivals and the offerings are set out and once again a census is taken.The allocation of the land amongst the tribes is described.

It is at this point that the daughters of Zelophehad speak out to justify their claim to an inheritance since they have no brothers. God says

כֵּ֗ן בְּנ֣וֹת צְלָפְחָד֘ דֹּֽבְרֹת֒ נָתֹ֨
Zelophehad's daughters speak justly

However, in Parshat Massei, We hear God saying

כֵּ֛ן מַטֵּ֥ה בְנֵֽי־יוֹסֵ֖ף דֹּֽבְרִֽים
The tribe of Joseph's descendants speak justly

The daughters of Zelophedad are limited to marrying within their own tribe. How can both requests be considered as just when one limits the other?

This claim of Zelophehad’s daughters would go on to underline our attitude to inheritance laws over the centuries. The Talmud spends much time agonising over the distribution of assets.

It is not just these daughters that appear in the Sedra but we read of another daughter, Serah bat Asher.

וּבְנֵ֣י אָשֵׁ֗ר יִמְנָ֧ה וְיִשְׁוָ֛ה וְיִשְׁוִ֥י וּבְרִיעָ֖ה וְשֶׂ֣רַח אֲחֹתָ֑ם
And the sons of Asher were Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi, and Briah, and Serah, their sister

Who was Serah?


She is, astonishingly, first mentioned in Vayigash, at the time of Jacob! Midrash claims her as representing continuity, from the time of the patriarchs to the present.

What is our inheritance? Is it something passed on from generation to generation or is it something physically acquired? We will go on to read in Devarim

תּוֹרָ֥ה צִוָּה־לָ֖נוּ משֶׁ֑ה מֽוֹרָשָׁ֖ה קְהִלַּ֥ת יַֽעֲקֹֽב
The Torah that Moses commanded us is a legacy for the congregation of Jacob

Physical assets, money, property and business can grow or decline but the true legacy we pass on to the next generation is in what we teach.

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