Torah Fax

Friday, July 18, 2003 - 18 Tammuz, 5763

Torah Reading: Pinchas (Numbers 25:10 - 30:1)
Candle Lighting Time: 8:06 PM
Shabbat Ends: 9:12 PM

Quality and Quantity

Before Moses passes away, he instructed the Jews about the way they were to divide the Land of Israel. In one verse in this week's parsha, the Torah states: "To the large tribe you shall give a larger inheritance and to a smaller tribe you shall give a smaller inheritance, each one shall be given an inheritance according to its number."

A question has been raised about the redundancy in this verse: Once it says that a larger inheritance shall be given to a larger tribe and a smaller one to a smaller tribe, why is it necessary to add "each one shall be given an inheritance according to its number?"

To answer this question it is first necessary to understand that the Torah's discussion of the inheritance of the Land of Israel was not just a discussion of the past. And while we certainly believe that the narratives of the Torah are true to the most minute detail, the Torah has layers and layers of deeper meaning that are relevant and timely in the twenty first century as it was then. The Land of Israel is both a land and a mindset. The word Israel is Biblically defined as "mastery over nature." To live in the Land of Israel is to attain self-mastery and mastery over the forces outside of us that seek to control us. To inherit the land is to instill this mindset and experience of Israel into one's consciousness.

Our Sages tell us that every Jew has a share in the Land of Israel. Regardless of one's level of involvement in the Jewish community, a Jew has an intrinsic connection to Israel-both the physical Land as well as the spiritual mindset it represents. This means, that even a Jew who has become assimilated or disconnected from his or her Jewish roots, that person can will nevertheless always have the capacity to reverse direction.

What, then, is the difference between one individual and another with regard to their inheritance in Israel? The difference is a quantitative one. For those who are a tribe of many constituents, the portion of Israel they receive is greater. This means that the Jew who expresses his Israel potential in many diverse ways, consistently and repeatedly, will have a larger share of the land. They will be able to feel more of their Israel potential than others.

In other words, as much as we tend to emphasize quality of one's actions, a case can also be made for the value of sheer quantity. Nine "Moseses" cannot make a minyan. But ten simple Jews can. The logic behind the "theory of quantity" is that deep down, everyone possesses the potential to reach the greatest heights. When we have the critical mass of positive energy, it represents the force that can fan that little flame into a blazing fire. Quantity generates quality.

So when the Torah states that "To the large tribe you shall give a larger inheritance and to a smaller tribe you shall give a smaller inheritance," it wishes to emphasize the value and effect of doing many "Land of Israel" oriented things. This translates into performing those aspects of Judaism that might go against the grain. The more we swim upstream, the more we discover that we have the ability to withstand all pressures and influences that are hostile to our soul's mission.

However, the Torah qualifies this "theory of quantity" with the next part of the verse that appears redundant:  "each one shall be given an inheritance according to its number."  The Hebrew word for its number "pikudav" also has an alternate meaning: In some verses the word can be translated as "that which is diminished."  If we reinterpret that verse in light of this new translation it could be rendered thus: Notwithstanding the importance of quantity of  "Land of Israel" related actions, there is a qualifying factor. When a person acts with self-effacing humility (pikudav-that which is diminished), the effect of even a few Mitzvot can be greatly magnified. When we inflate the value of our actions and look condescendingly at others who do less than us, it actually detracts from the value of those actions. 

To avoid the trap of counting one's good deeds and attempt to put oneself on a pedestal, the Torah therefore exhorts us to realize the importance of humility. And this feeling of humility does not negate the importance of each and every Mitzvah. Rather it can be characterized as the glue that takes the many detached aspects of good in our lives and unifies them into one powerful force of holiness. With this force, we cannot possibly lose our connection to the Land of Israel, literally and figuratively.

The emphasis on humility with regard to our right to Israel is echoed in the statement of the Midrash that when Moshiach will announce, "the time of your Redemption has arrived" it will be prefaced by the words: "Humble ones." This spirit of humility enables us to acquire the greatest benefit from all of our large quantities of Mitzvot and will be the catalyst for us to truly inherit the Land of Israel for all times.  

Moshiach Matters

It is told that once, as a young child, the Tzemach Tzedek (the third Rebbe of Chabad) sat amongst Chassidim and listened to their conversation. One Chassid remarked, "Who knows when Moshiach will come?" To this the Tzemach Tzedek replied - "Those are the words of the wicked Billam - 'I see him, but not now.' We Jews must have an entirely different outlook on the subject. We are commanded to wait all day every day for the imminent arrival of Moshiach.
Moshiach - It's a Jewish issue. For more info, visit

© 2001- 2005 Chabad of the West Side