One of the new ideas that we read about last week is the division of the land of Israel, bestowing the inheritance of their particular portion to each tribe, each person. Initially one might think that the process of allocation was based on some logical system of applications, historical merits, or a census. However, the verse states: “Only through lot shall the Land be apportioned” (Bamidbar 26; 55). The Talmud elaborates on the specific method of casting lots and how the distribution was established randomly.
Here we will discuss the broader application of this instruction using the principle that the verses and instructions in the Torah can be analyzed on multiple levels; this means that the physical details of each instruction also possess a parallel message in our wider spiritual service. In this case, the concept of allocating the land through lot, something seemingly random, communicates a corresponding idea of spiritual allocation of land.
To understand this idea of “spiritual lot or territory” let’s begin with an interesting discussion in the Talmud (Shabbat 118b) where one of the Sages, Rav Yosef, asked another “with what commandment was your father most careful?” He answers, “With the commandment of tzitzit.” At first glance, the implication of this question would appear to be slightly offensive, implying that there were certain commandments that his father was lax in performing.
Yet the commentaries clarify his query as referring not to observance of a particular command, but to an enhanced or inherent personal connection. In view of the fact that the root letters of the word ZAHIR (translated above as “careful”) also mean “luminous, the question is then understood “as: ‘a result of which commandment was your father most luminous– inspired?” The premise behind this excerpt is that even though one is obligated to fulfill all applicable Torah commandments, nevertheless there are certain mitzvahs that, for some inexplicable reason, each individual has a special appreciation for or excitement in performing.
More practically, we may find that there are some commandments or Jewish holidays to which we feel a specific attachment, a pleasure in observing- more than we do others. Conversely there are certain elements, character traits, or commands, that, for some strange reason, we find particularly challenging. Although we determine them to be necessary and important ingredients for our moral wellbeing, we always seem to encounter resistance or to stumble in this area. This resistance may be external- i.e. there are people or circumstances that attempt to block our success. More frequently the obstacles are internal, wherein we fight to muster the motivation or to control our natural urge to do differently.
The mystical sources (namely Rabbi Isaac Luria) offer some background behind this phenomenon based on the system of reincarnation which discusses how most souls of present generations descend in order to rectify some aspect of their previous incarnation. In this sense, every soul is granted a specific “territory” to master in this world. Although one is not always aware the details, there are some principles to determine where our general lot lies: Those mitzvos or elements in our life that we find particularly difficult are specifically those needing correction. More is at stake, so an even playing ground is established.
From a slightly different angle- leaving the notion of previous lives aside- if we want to find out where our distinctive mission, potential accomplishment, or “territory” lies, it is often in the area of our lives that we find the most difficult. In other words, the deeper reason why we encounter the most resistance here is precisely because it is the most important for us. With this in mind, instead of abandoning this struggle, one should regroup and channel more energy into overcoming it.
[It is important to note that what this doesn’t mean is that one should feed a bad relationship. If someone finds themselves struggle in a particular relationship, it is not necessarily an indication that one should remain involved and attempt to fix it. What we are speaking about is something that we believe in, that we have already determined to be correct, necessary, and important, yet find challenging.]
The overall message then is twofold: we must be aware of those things to which we feel a specific positive connection, and continue to develop and perfect that area. Conversely, we must reflect on those areas that we deem important, but where we keep on getting stuck and reinterpret this challenge, not as a personal deficiency but, as a sign of our personal “inheritance”- the most crucial element to rectify and for overall success. Finally, when we push through and double our efforts in order to conquer this “territory” we will likely find that the other things in our life will also become easier.