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Parashat Pinchas - Numbers 25:10-30:1

In this week’s Torah portion we learn about some of the biblical laws of inheritance through the curious incident of the daughters of Zelophehad. Evidently, Zelophehad was never able to bear a son in order to pass on his inheritance according to tradition. He did, however, have five daughters. But within the Israelite legal framework at that time daughters did not have the right to inherit. This was because daughters were assumed to marry into another family and receive the blessing of inheritance from their husband’s side of the family. This particular case created a precedent by which the laws of inheritance were established in the case there were no direct male descendants of the deceased.

Immediately after the case of Zelophehad’s daughters is settled, however, the LORD tells Moses that he must to go up to the top of the mountain and see the Promise Land because he was about to die. Moses didn’t argue. He knew that God was telling him that his time for leading Israel was over and that the responsibility needed to be passed on to someone else. With the laws of inheritance fresh on his mind, it would seem that Moses would petition Hashem for one of his sons to take his place to lead the Children of Israel. But Moses, in his humility, had the welfare of the nation as his priority, rather than giving preferential treatment to one of his sons. Therefore, Moses requests that the LORD appoint a leader over the nation of Israel, but in a unique manner. We read:

Moses spoke to the LORD, saying, “Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.” (Numbers 27:15–17)

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