Pyramids. The very word conjures thoughts of ancient civilization, magic and mystique, a foregone era. These mammoth structure are impressive and their aura have outlasted the societies that constructed them by many millennia. Myriads of workers were involved in the production of the pyramids, many losing their lives in the process. Physicists are still hypothesizing stones for these goliath edifices were transported and raised. This funerary art has unsurprisingly survived, perhaps thereby serving the purpose of their original assembly.
One of the most striking turns of fate and its subsequent effect of legacy is that of Alfred Noble. A fate which spawned a phenomenon, almost as famous as the pyramids of Giza. Alfred was a Swedish chemist who was the inventor of dynamite. In 1888 Alfred’s brother Ludvig died and a French newspaper erroneously published Alfred’s obituary “The merchant of death is dead”. It condemned him for his invention of dynamite and went on to say, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.” Alfred was disappointed with what he read and concerned with how he would be remembered. Nobel signed his last will and testament and set aside the bulk of his estate to establish the Nobel Prizes, to be awarded annually without distinction of nationality.
Humans have morbidly stated that there is one guarantee in life, that of death. All men are mortal and are keenly aware of their final destiny. Yet the soul yearns for eternity. Some foolishly search for the fountain of youth, while others erect monuments to perpetuate their memory. Yet there are those who undergo cryopreservation in the hope that healing and resuscitation may be possible in the future. All these people share a basic drive, immortality. This force is a natural outgrowth from the divinity found in the human. The spirit of man is a ‘derivative of the Divine’, consequently it bears resemblance to the Eternal encouraging people to crave immortality.
In allocating the Land of Israel, Hashem tells Moshe “you shall apportion the Land among these as an inheritance” denoting it was to be distributed amoung the recently counted individuals. These folks who formed the recent census were the new generation who were born in the desert. How do we reconcile this with Hashem’s promise to give the land to the people who left Egypt? How was this to be achieved?
A complicated process was developed. The land was actually divided and apportioned to the people who physically left Egypt and died in the desert. They would subsequently pass on the land posthumously to their live offspring who were now entering the Land of Israel.
Every single person in the Jewish nation was linked to a parcel of land. This was no temporary technical arrangement. Every Jubilee year, that is every half century, the land was returned to its original possessor i.e. those that left Egypt, and re-passed down from father to son. Thus each Jewish person was eternally linked to his plot of land. The Torah as designed for living in Eretz Yisroel, has a built-in immortalization system to ensure no Jew is ever forgotten.
It is no wonder that the Jew feels a constant yearning towards the Land of Israel. It does not matter how many generations he has spent in exile, Eretz Yisroel has a personal undying connection to each and every individual.
We can take this a step further.
This longing for immortality was the driving force behind the claim of Tzelophochod’s daughters. Out of respect for their father, they longed that he too should have an everlasting memory, his name should have an interminable association with the Land of Israel. Thus they presented their case before Moshe claiming “Why should our father’s name be eliminated from his family because he had no son?” This was just their opening argument and further countered step two in similar vein.
They argued, that if we, the girls, do not inherit his land, let our mother do Yibbum to our father’s brothers. Why? Perhaps there are differing criteria for inheritance than the levirate marriage. Offspring in one category is not necessarily accepted in another.
The Zohar teaches that when the brother of the deceased performs this levirate marriage, the soul of his late brother enters into the new child born from this Yibbum union. This then is another technique to ensure our father’s everlasting memory. We now have a deeper understanding of the girls’ case. Either his memory will live by inheriting the land, or if we females do not inherit, then our mother should be eligible for Yibbum so our father can continue to live, by entering the soul of his wife’s child. Why should our father be deprived the potential of eternal perpetuation.
Without any pyramids, mausoleums, tombs and sarcophagi, the Torah has a system to ensure everlasting memories. Each and every person in the nation is linked to the national heritage, and this association is constantly revisited, such that every generation is reminded of its forbearing ancestors.