In the Torah portion Pinchas ,1 G‑d tells Moshe that Eretz Yisrael is to be apportioned to the tribes by lot. Division by lot was deemed to be so important that this method was chosen though it resulted in disproportionate allotments of land.2

What is so special about division by lot?

There are three distinct aspects regarding the Jews’ possession of Torah:3

a) Torah is considered the inheritance of the Jewish people, as the verse states:4 “The Torah commanded to us by Moshe is the heritage of the congregation of Jacob”; b) Torah is the acquisition of the Jewish people, as our Sages say:5 “G‑d said, ‘I have sold you the Torah’ ”; c) the Torah was granted to us as a gift — “G‑d gave the Jewish people three fine gifts… Torah, Eretz Yisrael , and the World to Come.”6

That the Torah can be at the same time an inheritance, a purchase and a gift can be understood if one considers the differences between these three things.

Inheritance has nothing to do with the qualities or standing of the person that inherits;7 young and old, rich and poor, great and small inherit equally.

When a person purchases something, however, he must pay for the object.

In both instances the receiver must have some tangible connection to the object received: an inheritor must be related to the legator, while a purchaser must pay for the item that is sold to him.

This is not so with regard to a gift. No relationship is necessary between a giver and a receiver; gifts can be simply an expression of the giver’s kindness.

The same is true with regard to these three things as they relate to the Jews’ possession of Torah:

Each and every Jew is part of the “congregation of Jacob,” and as such Torah is his or her rightful heritage. Thus we find that every Jew “possesses” a letter in the Torah that is uniquely his.8 This also explains why the obligation to study Torah applies equally to all Jews, for Torah is every Jew’s heritage, and as such can and should be studied or recited by all Jews, whatever their station in life.9

The “acquisition” of Torah refers to that part of Torah which is acquired through the effort of cogitation. As such, it is similar to an object acquired in exchange for something else of value. Concerning this level of Torah it is written:10 “Prepare yourself for the study of Torah, for it does not come to you through inheritance.”

With regard to this level of Torah, differences between Jews indeed exist, for each person’s intellectual capacity differs from that of his neighbor,11 so that the degree of Torah understanding varies from individual to individual.

Calling the Torah a “gift” refers to those aspects of it that are beyond any man’s grasp, and therefore must be granted as a gift from G‑d.

Thus, this concept of the Torah as gift differs from both the description of it as a heritage received as a result of a Jew’s — finite — right of inheritance, and as an object “purchased” by man’s — finite — comprehension.

This third level of Torah is also referred to as “lot”; just as a gift depends wholly on the giver, so too the outcome of a lot depends strictly on G‑d’s choice.12 “Lot” thus alludes to that which transcends man’s intellect.

The quality of Eretz Yisrael is such that “G‑d’s eyes are on it at all times”13 — G‑dliness is revealed there to a degree not found in the rest of the world. That such a state exists within this physical world cannot be the result of man’s limited service; it is a gift from above.

Eretz Yisrael thus had to be divided by lot, reflecting action at a level that emanates wholly from Above.

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XIII, pp. 114-121.