|Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: V’zot HaBracha|
[This Sunday night begins the final days of the holiday season (Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur,Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, Simchat Torah. As such, I have included two different essays; the first is on Ecclesiastes, second from the weekly Parsha, which will be read in Simchat Torah. Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) is a biblical book setting forth King Solomon’s reflections on the futility and fleeting nature of life if one doesn’t find intrinsic value in the present. It will be read in synagogues throughout the world this Shabbos.]
The Wisdom of Solomon on the Difference between Estate and Legacy Planning
A wealthy man once died and left his family two envelopes; one to be opened immediately after death, the other to be opened a month later. The first envelope contained a letter to his children: “My children, I have one simple request before I am buried. Please bury me in my socks.” The children told this to the Chevra Kadisha (burial society), who refused to honor his request. “It is against the accepted practice; we cannot bury him in his socks.” The children were disappointed, but accepted the situation. After the thirty days they opened the second envelope. There was a letter that stated, “My children, I know that you tried to bury me in my socks and that the Chevra Kadisha did not allow it, but don’t worry, I didn’t make this request for my benefit, but for yours. I wanted you to realize that after you die, you can’t even bring your socks with you. You only get to bring your good deeds.”
Last year (7/26/18), Forbes published an article by legacy planning expert Daniel Scott entitled “Estate Planning is Dead.” He pointed out that instead of the previous trend of trying to worry about where one’s assets go after death, there has been a new focus on legacy planning. In Scott’s words:
Legacy planning recognizes that you are more than what you own. Legacy planning recognizes that you are the sum total of your life experiences. It measures your wealth not just in terms of traditional financial capital, but also in terms of your human capital-who you are in terms of your knowledge, values, relationships and spiritual beliefs, as well as your contributions to society. More importantly, legacy planning is about life, not death. While you may certainly leave a legacy behind when you die, legacy planning is about creating a blueprint for your success. It is about empowering you to live proactively, with intentionality and purpose. Legacy planning empowers you to choose the life you want to ultimately leave behind and to write the story you want others to tell when you are gone.
One of the prominent topics is wealth, and how to enjoy it. Here is one small snippet.
So, too, I loathed all the wealth that I was gaining under the sun. For I shall leave it to the one who will succeed me. (Kohelet 2:18)Over one thousand years ago, Rav Saadiah Gaon (882-942) wrote the following in his commentary to Kohelet (Ecclesiastes).
When a man dies, and leaves a worthy child, he is happy with the money he leaves him and will be happy with everything he gathered and the profits he made in his lifetime. But if he leaves behind a depraved or wicked son, the father will cry and say, ‘woe to me; this son will misuse everything I have earned. This is futile; my legacy will be limited to my good deeds but my offspring will not carry it on.”
While we are living, we think about our legacy and what impact we will leave after we are gone. We can take our good deeds with us and we can even earmark our assets to continue to leave our mark in this world, but ultimately our children and those that we impact will be the ones who continue our legacy in this world.Yizkor is one of those opportunities to grow the legacy of those who have left this world. Our loved ones did not leave us money that was earmarked for the Yizkor appeal. We do so on our own, expressing that we give tzedakah because those who have departed have taught us the importance of caring for others. As Rav Saadiah Gaon taught us above, what could be a greater legacy than having descendants who (1) use their money to express the values of the deceased and (2) come to the synagogue to demonstrate that they continue to connect to the same Jewish link of the parent(s) who bore them.
Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: V’zot HaBrachaMaking Sure to Keep the Door Open for More
The year’s final Torah reading will be read this Tuesday, on Simchas Torah, the festival in which we rejoice at having completed another annual cycle of the completion of the pubic Torah reading in shul. The following verse describes an important essential aspect of having Torah knowledge in the life of a Jew.The Torah was commanded to us by Moses, an ‘inheritance’ to the Congregation of Jacob. (33:4)
There are two similar words in Hebrew that mean “inheritance,” “morasha” and “yerusha.” Inheritance as a “morasha” is only mentioned twice in the Torah; for the two gifts bestowed upon the Jewish People. The first (Exodus 6:8) is when the Almighty promised to bring us into the Land of Israel and the second is the verse above. What is the significance of this term (morasha) for these two gifts?
Although Morasha is a special type of inheritance. A regular inheritance (yerusha) belongs entirely to the recipient to do with it as (s)he chooses. In contrast, morasha is not an inheritance but rather a heritage. It must be preserved and transmitted to subsequent generations. We are guardians over the precious gifts of Torah and Israel and are tasked with making sure we hand them over to our children, the way our parents (hopefully) instilled these ideas in us. Torah can’t simply be bequeathed. Just because Judaism and the Torah were staples in my parents’ home does not mean that I will simply inherit that knowledge and those values. I need to work at it; only by doing so will I carry the torch to the next generation.
“This Torah will not depart from your mouth or the mouths of you children or the mouths of your grandchildren forever”(Joshua 1:8) is understood by the Talmud (Bava Mietzia 85a) as a guarantee that if three generations are committed to learning Torah, then the Torah will never leave that person’s family. In the words of the Talmud, the Torah returns to its host.
There’s an obvious question on the Talmud’s assurance about the Torah will not abandon its host, i..e. the family that remained committed to studying it for three generation. We all know people who descend from many generations of people who were serious about studying and upholding the Torah but these people themselves are ignorant of Torah. [Unfortunately, millions of Jews that fit into this category]. How are we to understand the idea that “the Torah returns to its host?
This question was posed to the Chofetz Chaim (1839-1933); he explained that the Talmud’s analogy is extremely precise. The Torah is like a guest seeking its host’s home. Sometimes a guest knocks but there’s no response. If no one answers the door, the guest will not come in.
The Torah returns to its host means that if Torah has been in a family for three generations, the Torah will come knocking on that family’s door in future generations. But, and this crucial, the younger generation must open the door. There’s no magic in transmitting Judaism; the ‘guest’ must still be invited and welcomed in by each new generation. When this doesn’t happen, there is knocking, there are opportunities, but the door remains closed to them. Torah is merely an ‘inheritance,’ (yerusha), it’s a living heritage (morasha); the former is automatic, the latter requires effort.
This Simchat Torah let us rejoice together in the Jewish gifts we possess and focus on how we can teach the next generation-or perhaps ourselves-to keep their doors (i.e. minds) open to the wonderful heritage given to us. Shabbat Shalom/Chag Samayach
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