On the way to the Holy land
Last minute preparations are being made towards the Jewish people’s entry into the Promised Land. The excitement is building up as each tribe is about to be allocated their portion. The central directive that appeared in Parashat Pinchas is repeated in Parashat Masei, “You shall give the Land as an inheritance to your families by lot; to the large, you shall give a larger inheritance and to the small you shall give a smaller inheritance; wherever the lot falls shall be his; according to the tribes of your fathers, you shall inherit.”
The above verse presents two different methods of dividing the land: by lottery and by common-sense reasoning, according to the size of each tribe. The sages describe a third, intermediate method, via Divine spirit:
Elazar [the kohen] donned the urim vetumim and Joshua and the entire Jewish people stood before him. A ballot of the tribes and a ballot of the borders stood by him. He [Elazar] would predict the matches through Divine spirit [according to the urim vetumim] and say [for example], “Zevulun will be drawn and the border of Acre will be drawn with him.” He drew a lot from the tribes’ ballot and Zevulun was in hand, he drew a lot from the borders’ ballot and the border of Acre was in hand… and so it was for each and every tribe.
Common-sense, intuition, and faith
Before we see how these methods of dividing the land correspond to our current generation, we will first note their correspondence to three ways of serving God at three different levels of the psyche.
The first way of serving God is through action, by keeping His commandments. Our actions are governed by the intellect (שֵׂכֶל), which judges which actions are permitted and which are forbidden according to Torah law. This corresponds to dividing the land relative to the size of the tribe, which is a common-sense concern.
The second way we serve God is by refining our emotions in a way that goes beyond keeping to the letter of the law. This we achieve by cultivating our intuition and by developing a sensitivity that comes from an inner knowledge (דַּעַת) of God. This way corresponds to dividing the land according to Divine spirit, through the urim vetumim, which lay upon Elazar’s heart.
The third and highest level of serving God is through faith (אֱמוּנָה) and a dedication that is above all reason, so much so that we totally devote our life to Him. This manifests our direct connection to the Almighty and corresponds to dividing the land by a lottery, the results of which rely entirely on His will.
God gave this land to me
Now, there are three reasons why we should hold on to the land and not give even one millimeter of it to others. These three reasons similarly correspond to the three ways the land was divided when the Jewish people first crossed its borders.
The first reason is above all, the holiness of the land that God has given us. This reason corresponds to dividing the land by lottery. The land of Israel is our fortune, an indispensible part of our inherent Jewish faith.
The second reason is a more emotional one, the need to express our gratitude to the Almighty who has given us this land as our heritage; we cannot give away our beloved gift!
The third reason is the one the Lubavitcher Rebbe emphasized in particular: the security factor, which is pure common-sense.
Miraculously, the results of all three methods of dividing the land were absolutely identical, and so, whatever the reason for keeping the land, the results will always be the same: the whole land of Israel for the Jewish people.
Image by Davidbena at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47491604