In a nutshell
At the end of parashat Balak, Pinchas, Aharon’s grandson, kills Zimri, the Nassi of shevet Shimon, who publicly takes a Midianite princess into a tent, Pinchas kills them both, attempting to stop the plague raging among the people. He is rewarded for his act, as G‑d grants him a covenant of peace and the priesthood.
Mosheh is instructed on how the Land is to be divided among the tribes of Israel. We also learn about the five daughters of Zelophehad’s successful plea for land rights. Joshua is chosen and empowered by Mosheh to succeed him and lead the people into the Land of Israel.
As the parashah sets out laws for the Jewish holidays, listing the daily offerings, and the additional offerings brought on Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh (first of the month), and the festivals of Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret, Jews read parts of this parashah as Torah readings during many Jewish holidays.
Why was Mosheh not allowed to enter the Promised Land?
In parashat Bamidbar, Bnei Israel were counted a month after the Mishkan was dedicated. Now, almost forty years later, Mosheh is being asked to count Bnei Israel yet again.
In Deuteronomy 32:51–52 God gives the reason that Mosheh was not permitted to enter the Promised Land: “This is because . . . you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Merivah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.” Mosheh saw the Promised Land from afar, but was not allowed to enter.
The Water of Merivah
The incident at the waters of Merivah, in Kadesh barnea, is recorded in Numbers 20. Nearing the end of their forty years of wandering, the Israelites came to the Desert of Zin. Miriam died, and there was no water, and the community turned against Mosheh and Ahron. God told them to gather the assembly and speak to the rock and water will come forth. Mosheh took the staff and angrily struck the rock twice with his staff (Numbers 20:10–11). Water came from the rock, as God had promised. But God immediately told Mosheh and Ahron that, because they failed to trust Him, they would not bring the children of Israel into the Promised Land.
I always felt that the punishment was too harsh. True, Mosheh disobeyed a direct command from God, being asked to speak to the rock and instead, he struck the rock with his staff. What about all the good things he did? What about second chances? What about forgiveness? I’m still trying to reason with this story.
God allowed Mosheh, before he died at Mount Nevo (located directly east of Jerusalem), to view the broad panorama of the land inheritance he swore to give the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaacov (Deuteronomy 34:4-5). After the death of Mosheh his body was buried by the Eternal in a special place no one would be able to find.