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Parsha Pinchas

   At the end of last week's parasha, we were introduced to Pinchas, the grandson of Aaron, who skewered on his spear a defiant Israelite, Zimri son of Salu and a Midianite woman, Cozbi daughter of Zur. Their deaths stopped the plague which God sent as a punishment for the reckless behavior of the Israelites. Indeed, it is this act which God cites as the reason for raising Pinchas' family to be the eternal priesthood and which provides the name for this week's Torah portion. God also commands Moses that the people must maintain a state of enmity with the Midianites because they allured the Jewish People to sin.

   The parasha continues with the rise of a new generation and its preparations for entering the Land of Israel. At the border of Moab near Jericho, God instructs Moses and Eleazar, the priest, to conduct a census of all male Israelites over the age of twenty, and thus eligible for military service. They do so, and the number comes to 601,730. This census was extremely important because God tells Moses that the size of each tribe's portion in the Land of Canaan will be determined according to the male members of each tribe as counted according to this census. Only the Levites are counted separately because, dedicated to lifelong Temple service, they are both ineligible for military service and ownership of land. (Of those counted, only Joshua, Caleb and Moses himself had been counted in the first census in the wilderness of Sinai. All the other adults had died in the desert, as had been decreed by God.)

   The daughters of Zelophechad come before Moses with a problem. Their father died in the Wilderness, and he didn't have any sons. What would their inheritance be? Moses checks with God, and God says that women may inherit and provides Moses with the order of inheritance within a family. The names of the daughters of Zelophechad are given: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.

   God orders Moses to ascend to the top of Mount Abarim, there to view the Promised Land that the Israelites will soon enter - although Moses himself will not live to enter it. At Moses' suggestion (" . so that the Lord's community may not be like sheep that have no shepherd" ), God designates Joshua bin Nun as his successor. Moses invests Joshua with God's authority in front of Eleazar and the whole community.

   The parasha concludes with God's instructing Moses yet again about all the offerings (which now include libations) of the service in the Sanctuary during the various holidays in the yearly cycle. On Shabbat, an extra sacrifice was to be brought (Numbers 28:9-10). This offering was called "musaf" (additional), and in shul the Musaf service on Shabbat replaces it.

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