In this week’s Torah parsha Pinhas Moses and Aaron’s son Eleazar are asked to take a census of the Israelite people after God had sent a plague upon the Mideonite people for their trickery against Moses. This parsha brings to light the importance of census taking, inheritance and land distribution.
The census is taken to determine the size of each tribe and the land is to be distributed based on the number of people of each tribe. The daughters of Zelophehad came forward before Moses and explained that their father had died in the wilderness and had left no son. They were brave determined women and asked that they be given a land holding. Moses brought the case to the Lord, who determined their case just. They were to be given their father’s share. The Lord then tells Moses instructions for inheritance of property.
In the United States these practices are still carried on today. Every 10 years in the US a census is taken. The results are used for determining how federal funds and other resources are to be distributed based on population numbers. This practice dates back prior to the Revolutionary War. Census records can be viewed by the public after a period of 70 years and are available at US National Archive repositories located throughout the country. These records can be helpful in researching one’s genealogy and family background.
The inheritance practices in Pinhas are also largely in place but can be varied based on ones final will and testament. The daughters of Zelophehad were the first feminists mentioned in the Torah and modern women can look to their example in standing up for their rights at a time when women are beginning to see a backslide in the progress we have made over the last century.