A Lesson in Learning Contentment

Yael Eckstein  |  July 19, 2022

To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one; each is to receive its inheritance according to the number of those listed. Be sure that the land is distributed by lot. —Numbers 26:54-55

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Pinchas, which means “Phinehas,” from Numbers 25:10–30:1.

If you have kids, you’ve probably heard one of the following two responses after saying “no” to something they asked for: “But so-and-so has one!” or “But so-and-so gets to do that!” I’m sure I said that to my parents when I was a child, and on occasion, I hear it from one of my own children. 

Years ago, I developed a strategy to deal with my children feeling entitled to something because of what their friends have or get to do and teaching them how to be content. And it’s worked rather effectively! Want to hear about it?

When they tell me about their friend’s toy, I ask them to tell me about their own toys. I say to them, “Ok, but what toys do you have?” When they tell me about the fun thing that their friend did, I say, “That’s great. But what are the fun things you have been blessed to do?”

A Lesson in Learning Contentment

We see this lesson of learning to be content with what we have being taught in this week’s Torah portion. When God told Moses to determine the division of each tribe’s portion of the land of Israel, we see that He told him two seemingly contradictory ways of doing so. We read, “To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one; each is to receive its inheritance according to the number of those listed. Be sure that the land is distributed by lot.”

First, God said to divide the land according to the size of each tribe. And then immediately after that, God said to make sure that each portion is determined by lottery. If Moses divided the land into different sized portions according to the size of each tribe, what is the point of the lottery? Wouldn’t this undo all the work of dividing by size?

The Jewish sages explained that God first wanted each tribe to see that they would be getting a portion of land that suited their size. But God also wanted all the tribes to know that it wasn’t Moses who made the decision about who got which portion. Moses divided the land by the size of the tribes, and then when he cast lots, the result was miraculously exactly what Moses had just determined. It was a lesson in learning contentment.

The lottery showed the tribes that God had decided and therefore there was no reason for jealousy or for questioning their portion. Each tribe had exactly the portion that was best for them.

Your Turn:

Being content with what we have can be a challenge. Take a few moments of devotional prayer time today to thank God for your lot in life.

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