The Inheritance

Friday, 21 October, 2016 - 2:15 pm

The Inheritance 

As Moses began to convey his blessings to each of the tribes of Israel on the last day of his life, Moses began his final words by describing how G-d came to Sinai to give the Torah to the Jewish people:

"The Lord came from Sinai and shone forth from Seir to them; He appeared from Mount Paran and came with some of the holy myriads; from His right hand was a fiery Law for them.[1]

Throughout history, the Jewish people refer to Moses as “Moshe Rabeynu”, Moses our Teacher, because, while Moses did many great things for the Jewish people, from liberating them from Egypt to conquering the lands east of the Jordan River, conveying the Torah was his greatest life achievement.  

How then does Moses describe the Torah in his final words to his beloved people? What words, image or metaphor does Moses employ to convey to the Jewish people the preciousness of the Torah? How does he seek to inspire them and to do all in their power to transmit it to the future generations?

There is so much to say about the Torah. He could have said any of the following: “The Torah is infinite Divine wisdom made available to the finite human mind.” “The Torah is the greatest moral code”. “The Torah will fill your life with inspiration.” “The Torah will give meaning to your existence.” Moses, however, said something entirely different:

The Torah that Moses commanded us is a inheritance for the congregation of Jacob.[2]

Moses understood that, in order for the Torah to survive the test of time, in order for it to be transmitted and studied throughout the generations, more important than telling the Jew about any particular quality of the Torah, more important than knowing what the Torah would add to his life or her life, the most important thing that the Jew needs to know about the Torah, is that the Torah is his or her inheritance.

What is an inheritance, and how is it different from other forms of acquisition?

When purchasing something, the buyer “earns” that which is being purchased. The buyer receives the item in consideration of money being paid.

When receiving a gift there is a reason that the gift is being given to this particular person. The Talmud states that the giver gives a gift because the recipient gives the giver some form of pleasure, joy or satisfaction. In other words, while the recipient of the gift did not pay for the gift by offering payment in accordance with its full value, the gift is “payment” for the intangible satisfaction the recipient gives to the giver. The transfer of ownership from one party to another can only occur if the recipient wants the transfer to take effect.  

Inheritance is a different story altogether.

A person may have a child who is merely one day old, the person may have never seen his child, and in fact, may not even know that the child exists. The child, has no capacity to understand that there is an estate, and he is its heir. And yet the transfer takes effect. The heir inherits the estate in its entirety, not because of anything he did, not because he wants it. The heir receives the inheritance because there is an essential bond between the parent and child. The child inherits from the parent, not because the child is deserving, but because deep down, on the soul level, they are one.

The Torah is the inheritance of every Jew.

Moses understood that the most important thing a Jew must know about the Torah is that the Torah is his inheritance, that the Jew and the Torah are bound at the soul level. That even if the Jew is not aware of the preciousness of the Torah, even if the Jew does not want the Torah and even tries to escape it, he and the Torah are one.

The Torah may or may not be the bestselling book out there, but it is our book.

To the Jew living in a particular age, Torah may or may not be the most popular story, but it is his story.

The Torah is our inheritance because at the core of our identity we yearn to hear its words, its stories and its teachings. The Torah is our inheritance because of the essential bond between the Torah and the Jewish soul. The Torah is our inheritance because no matter how much knowledge we acquire, our soul will still  yearn for something deeper. No matter how many libraries of wisdom we acquire, our soul will still yearn for the Torah. Because the Jew, the Torah, and the Holy One Blessed be He are all one.  



[1] Deuteronomy 33:2.

[2] Ibid. 33:4. 

Comments on: The Inheritance

Alex Troy wrote...

Stirring, inspiring words
How fortunate we are to have such an inheritance
Thank you, Rabbi