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There are lots of important topics in this week’s parsha, “Pinchas.” However, the one truly unique subject is that of dividing up the land of Israel into the individual inheritances of the tribes. After wandering forty years in the desert, the Jews were ready to enter Israel, and it was necessary to divide the land into twelve districts that would match the populations of each of the twelve tribes. Each district was an “inheritance” that was unique to each tribe. The question was how was each tribe matched up with its corresponding district of land?

The answer that the Torah gives (Deut. 26:55) is, “However, according to lottery shall you divide the land.” That is, not according to intellect, nor according to feelings (some prefer the desert, some the forests, some the mountains, etc) should the land be divided, but according to some ineffable, completely illogical system called a “lottery” the land was distributed among the tribes. In practice, this meant that Moshe drew up the boundaries of the twelve tribes on twelve different pieces of paper and threw them into a pot. The leaders of all of the tribes came, reached in their hands, and chose the pieces of paper that then became their portions in the land of Israel. In fact, the right piece of paper “jumped” into the hand of the corresponding leader as if guided from Above. So, obviously there was an intimate connection between each tribe and the part of the land that it inherited. But that connection was not intellectual nor emotional, but according to something beyond the mind and heart altogether.

There’s another place in the Torah that talks about “lotteries.” The early sages of the Talmud had special forms of serving G-d that were unique to each one of them individually. One was extra careful about tzitzit, another about tefillin, another about Pesach and yet another about giving tzedoka, for example. All of the sages were of course careful in all of the six hundred and thirteen mitzvoth, but in addition they took special care and stringencies regarding the mitzvah with which they felt a special affinity, or soul-connection. How did the special affinity come about? The Zohar says that it came by way of a “lottery.” That is, each soul has a unique connection with a particular mitzvah that transcends that soul’s obligation to all of the other six hundred and twelve. And that unique connection was determined by a lottery. What’s going on here?

Kaballa explains that every part of the land of Israel is connected with a specific mitzvah. Every mountain, every sea, every stream, besides possessing a general connection with all the mitzvoth of the Torah, has a special association with one of the mitzvoth in particular. And that’s why it was necessary to connect each tribe with a unique portion of the Land. Each tribe was associated with G-d in its own unique fashion, and in order to actualize its connection, it was necessary for the tribe to reside on the corresponding piece of the land. That is, the two lotteries, one for the inheritance of the land, and the other for the association with mitzvoth, had to match. Only then was each tribe enabled to fulfill the mitzvoth in the way that would allow it to fully connect with the One above.

No longer do the tribes live on their own individual inheritances in the land of Israel. Instead, we are all permitted and encouraged to live in Israel, and everyone must come when it is the right time for him and her, and live where it most suits them. Even so, we all have a mitzvah that is unique to us, that in addition to the other six hundred and twelve, is the one that is meant for us to specialize in and perform to the utmost. How do we know what it is? The answer: it’s the one that gives us the most trouble. The one that we just don’t want to do. The one that our mind doesn’t agree to and our heart won’t let in. It’s the mitzvah that when approached, all of a sudden presents all kinds of obstacles to prevent us from doing it. Why? Because it’s truly beyond us, beyond intellect and beyond emotion. But when it comes to our particular neshama, or soul, it’s the mitzvah that has the most ability to uplift us and elevate us to new spiritual levels. Where you find the greatest holiness is where you find the most obstacles. That’s also part of the “lottery.” Your mind won’t accept it and your heart won’t admit it, but that’s the mitzvah that’s meant for you.

So, what do you do? Like Pinchase, you “jump.” You have to recognize it when it comes, and go for it. It’s meant for you. But if you don’t understand it and you don’t want it, how can you go for it? That’s why the kabala tells us that Pinchas is Eliyahu. Pinchas, the grandson of Aharon, was also Elijah the prophet. His soul transmigrated many generations later into the soul of Elijah the prophet (Eliyahu). If so, though, why do we say “Pinchas is Eliyahu”? Really, we should say it the other way around, that “Eliyahu,” who is closer to us chronologically, “is Pinchas,” the original soul. But, the answer is that really, the first transmigration was Eliyahu, who lived long before Pinchas of our parsha. However, he wasn’t born of human parents, but existed as an angel, a spiritual being. And it was he who gave Pinchas the impetus, and push, to jump and perform his mighty act of courage and initiative in fulfilling the will of G-d. Alone, Pinchas on his own would not have killed Zimri and Cozbi. But with the spiritual essence of Eliyahu entering into his body, Pinchas gained the impetus to take the initiative and do what had to be done. Therefore, we say “Pinchas is Eliyahu,” because Eliyahu was really the original soul in this pair.

For us to take the leap of faith and perform that mitzvah that is uniquely ours, to jump to fulfill the commandment that falls into our lap, without understanding and without feeling, is an act that we can only take if our own “Eliyahu” is standing in back of us and pushing. Better yet, if he is entering into our very being. At some point in life, everyone knows there is a “right thing” that he has to do, even if he doesn’t understand or even want to do it. It’s the right thing, the thing that’s ordained from Above. If you miss it on one go-around, G-d willing it will come again, because it’s your unique challenge, meant to lift you to new spiritual levels. But why wait for it to come around again? Jump now, think later…

Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol. 2, pp. 342-348 Rabbi David Sterne, Jerusalem Connection in the Old City of Jerusalem