Heritage

“Without proper education, the children will squander the inheritance money they receive,” says a Japanese proverb.

An heir may receive an inheritance in the form of money, a house or a piece of land. There is no merit of the heir in this, they just receive and holds something. Some inherit more while others less, such as the proverbial last silver spoon from the family dinner service. The Hebrew term for an inheritance is yerusha. Such an inheritance belongs to the individual successors of the deceased, who may then dispose of it as they wish; they can even squander at will. This is what differentiates an inheritance [yerusha] from heritage [morasha], which is inalienable.

Heritage [morasha] myst be earned: “prepare yourself for the study of the Torah, because it is not given to you as an inheritance [yerusha],” the sages say in the treatise of Pirkei Avot (2:17).

“These are: the Torah, the land of Israel and the share in the world to come. These three gifts, which God has given to the people of Israel, are the heritage they gain through effort and toil,” says the Babylonian Talmud (Brachot 5a). This heritage carries the name of morasha.

We read in the Torah:

“Then I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a heritage possession [morasha], I am the LORD!” (Shemot 6:8);

“When Moses  charged us with the Torah as the heritage [morasha] of the congregation of Jacob” (Devarim 33: 4).

“Whenever the word ‘morasha’ appears,” says Rabbi Hoshia (Jerusalem Talmud, Bava Batra 8b), “there is bound to be uncertainty. And yet it is said: ‘the heritage of the congregation of Jacob.’ The answer: ‘When a man comes to learn, there is no weaker and more uncertain person, but when he has exerted himself, he inherits.’”

Thus, morasha is not inherited easily, but rather acquired with difficulty and effort. In contrast to yerusha, morasha is owned jointly by the respective generations, who are obliged to preserve it for their progeny in an intact state. If yerusha is primarily the material inheritance, then morasha is best described as the intangible heritage: customs, rituals, knowledge, ideals, beliefs and competences.

This argument can be examined on a simple example: The Nożyk Synagogue is our yerusha, and now it is up to us to learn to pray, to study the Torah, but also to learn the traditions of this place and the stories of the people associated with it; and that is our morasha.

In other words, without proper education [morasha], the children will squander the inheritance money they receive [yerusha].