Monday, June 15, 2015

"morasah" or "aina yerusha lach?"

Over at his Mevakesh Lev blog Rabbi Ehrman posted the following question: the pasuk calls Torah a “morashah kehilas Ya’akov,” an inheritance, yet in Pirkei Avos we are told that we have to work at Torah because “aina yerusha lach,” it's not something that you just inherit.  So is it a yerusha or is it not a yerusha?

By coincidence my son’s yeshiva had its annual siyum yesterday and the guest speaker, R’ Ya’akov Perlow, the Novominsker Rebbe, posed this exact question. He quoted the answer of R’ Chaim Volozhiner: Torah is an inheritance for all of Klal Yisrael; it's not, however, an inheritance that belongs to any one person.  Each individual has to earn his own portion in Torah by dint of his own efforts.  The siyum of the yeshiva was a celebration of the efforts of the boys to earn their portion.

Over the years that I’ve had the privilege of attending these siyumim with my son there have been some guest speakers who dazzled with their brilliance, some who had great stories, some who spoke on the masechta. I have to say one thing about the Novominsker’s address: when he spoke, you sensed that everything he said came directly from the heart. He spoke of seeing people in the audience whose grandparents he knew as a young man, and now these same people are themselves grandparents and are zocheh to attend a siyum made by their grandchildren. He spoke of vividly remembering a time when it was thought that everything was lost and Torah would never be rebuilt, at least not on these shores, and yet here we are today, with boys finishing masechtos. The gemara in Shabbos says that Abayei used to make a siyum for all the Rabbanan when a talmid finished a masechta. The Novominsker explains that the siyum is not a simcha only for the individual, but it’s a simcha for the community, for all the Rabbanan,, as it shows the continuity of Torah, the bridge between those past generations and the new generation of bnei Torah our yeshivos are producing.

I think that sums up why on a sunny Sunday afternoon I and other parents and community members give up our time to attend the siyum. The menahel mentioned that last time the yeshiva learned Baba Basra (6 years ago, if I’m not mistaken) there were 19 boys who finished the masechta. This year there were 40. That’s on top of boys making chazarah siyumim on masechtos learned in previous years. You don’t unfortunately have to look too far to find young people on the wrong track these days. It’s nice once in awhile to take time out and appreciate that there are young people who are on the right track.  They are making the morasha of Klal Yisrael into their own personal yerusha, and that is a simcha for us all.  

I will just add one thing to the Novominsker's message.  Every individual must put in his own effort to acquire Torah, but I don't think that is quite enough.  One needs an environment that encourages those efforts, a peer group that shares the same goals, role models who embody the ideals that one is striving for.  I usually avoid mentioning the specific schools my children attend, but in this case I'm going to make an exception for the sake of expressing hakaras hatov to Yeshiva Far Rockaway and its Rosh Yeshiva, its Rebbeim, and staff.  I am noge'a b'davar with it comes to my own son, so I will just say this about his peers that he has grown up in the yeshiva and gone through the system with: they are all fine young men, bnei Torah, with wonderful midos.  Yes, we parents can give ourselves a pat on the back, but I don't think year after year these boys would be finishing masechtos if it was not for the environment and chinuch the yeshiva has given them.  


  1. I've heard Rav Schachter quote from Rav Gifter that morasha and yerusha are two different things - yerusha is "inheritance", while morasha is "heritage", so while Torah is our heritage, that doesn't mean that we acquire it automatically as one would an inheritance.

  2. I think Sfas Emes has a different approach with the Gemara of יגעתי ומצאתי תאמין