Ramban on Parshat Pinchas

Author: Sheva Mann, Tammuz 5772/July 2012

Laws of Inheritance

I am going to focus mainly on the principles of inheriting land in Eretz Yisrael in the time of Moses. Those laws might or might not be applicable to movable property, and/or in our time.

We see from the episodes of Moab and Ammon, Lot's descendants, that G-d does not take away an inheritance, even from gentiles. Exceptions to be noted below.

We see from the episode with Pinchas, that an inheritance may be granted based on actions, in this case, positive actions, and not a material inheritance, but the Kehunah (priesthood).

An inheritance may be removed by wrong, public action, as was the case of Dathan and Aviram (Num 26:9). Likewise, if a portion of a tribe was obliterated before the census at the end of Numbers, as were 5 out of the 10 sons of Benjamin (26:3).

The question arises: During what time period was the land inheritance determined? Was it according to the 12 sons of Israel? (Yes, to keep their integrity as a tribe intact.) Was it according to the 70 members who entered Egypt? (Yes, unless the members of a particular tribe all died, or if there was a more illustrious descendant (26:13)). In Korach's case, because his sons redeemed his name, so his descendants are called by his name, rather than his father's or grandfather's.

According to Ramban, Serach is mentioned because her biological father had no sons (26:46), and her mother remarried to Asher; therefore, she is called Asher's daughter, but inherits her (biological) father, and Asher's sons are her (half-) brothers,

(Ch 27) just as Bnos Zelophchad inherited their father. Also, if there are no living descendants, the father inherits his children, Lo Aleinu.

Larger tribes at the second census in Numbers (26:54) got a larger portion--even if they were smaller at the time of Yetziat Mitzraim. The land apportionment, however, did not depend on the size of the family grouping either at the time of the conquest of the Land of Israel (seven years), nor its size at the time of apportioning the land (an additional seven years, all during Joshua's time). In the case of the tribe of Menasheh, Joshua instructed them to cut down some of the forests (easier to defend, and to evict the occupants).

In any--and every case--the leader of the Jewish people consulted Elazar with his Urim, which spelled out which family received which portion of land. Keep in mind, that some land is more arable and better watered, while other land is less so.

G-d rules the world. If He wants produce to grow on a particular plot of land, it will:which crops, what quality, and in how much abundance. If not...It depends on our actions (my editorial on the Parshah).