An endearing picture of two generations learning Torah together is displayed on our mantelpiece. The image depicts our cherished Jewish heritage being passed on.

The Hebrew word morashah exemplifies the transmission of belief from one generation to the next. Usually translated as “heritage,” a morashah is actually so much more. It connotes a process of actively giving something over. Our morashah is the passing on of historical narrative, Jewish laws, customs and ethical values. It’s acquired incrementally, through ongoing efforts that affect one’s beliefs and actions. A Jew’s dedication to his or her morashah ensures the continuity of the Jewish people.

The final Torah portion, V’zot Haberachah, contains the fundamental verse: Torah tziva lanu Moshe morashah kehilat Yaakov“The Torah commanded to us by Moses is the heritage of the congregation of Jacob.”1 These words convey the essence of the Torah. The Talmud states that they are to be taught to a child upon learning to speak.2

Torah is the morashah (heritage) of all Jews. It belongs to everyone in the congregation of Jacob.3 We teach every Jewish child that the Torah belongs to him or her. The Torah is a heritage for all of Israel ever since the six days of creation.4 Torah isn’t exclusively for rabbis and scholars; it’s meant to be learned and observed by all, regardless of background or age.

Every Jew is considered a child of our holy patriarchs and matriarchs, with equal rights to their spiritual heritage. Those who may feel removed or distant from Jewish life are still part of the family. Developing a meaningful Jewish identity helps to enrich and strengthen this connection.

Heritage v. Inheritance

Similar to morashah is the Hebrew word yerushah, which means inheritance. There is a significant difference, however, between the two. A yerushah is a bequest that can be used any way that the beneficiary chooses. It can be used wisely, squandered foolishly, or simply discarded. In contrast, a morashah must be protected and preserved. The beneficiary of the morashah is entrusted to make good use of it and pass it on to others. Even more than the passing down of family recipes and heirlooms, our morashah perpetuates cherished beliefs, traditions and ideals.

In our own family, I fondly remember four generations gathered around our weekly Shabbat table. The children enjoyed learning the Torah imparted by their elders. We all delighted to hear their stories of what Jewish life was once like in a different time and place. We all joyfully sang the Shabbat melodies they’d taught us. This repeated itself each and every week for years.

That beloved older generation is no longer physically with us, yet we still repeat their stories and sing their melodies. Testimonies of their self-sacrifice and courage resound within us. Today, we strive to apply their lessons and unwavering commitment to our own personal struggles.

Many Jews today don’t have such memories. For a variety of reasons, they didn’t receive a morashah from their parents or grandparents. Yet they still can seek that morashah, and create and transmit an enduring connection by integrating the Torah’s wisdom into daily life.

Spiritual Identity Theft

We’re often warned about identity theft. Imagine how chaotic it would be if your identity was stolen. Don’t allow yourself to become a victim of spiritual identity theft. Never forget who you are. Remember that you’re the spiritual heir to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You are the beloved child of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. This is your exalted background. You are the pivotal connector in an ongoing Divine mission, which began before you and will continue beyond you. This mission is incomplete without you. It’s not enough just to know that you are a Jew. Strive to live as a Jew.

A classic ad campaign for a luxury watch line features a father showing his young son the expensive watch that he was wearing. The caption reads: “You never really own a Pattek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” The message is endearing. How much more so is a real-life picture in which generations bond together, united through the transmission of our priceless morashah—the Torah.

Making It Relevant

  1. Choose to uplift yourself, spiritually. Read or watch a Torah-oriented article or video.
  2. Think of a meaningful memory that you’d like to create and pass on. Make it happen.
  3. Safeguard your Jewish identity by choosing one or two Torah lessons and integrate them into your life.