Mesorah Project III


Mesorah is usually translated as “Jewish tradition”, but its literal meaning is “transmission”.

Tractate Avot, which is devoted to Jewish ethical conduct, opens with a brief history lesson:

“Moses received the Torah at Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua, and Joshua to the Elders, and the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly.”

We are told that each generation passed the Torah – both the Written Law and the Oral Law – on to the next generation.

Our commentaries wonder why Tractate Avot begins in this fashion.

One answer is that the act of transmitting the legacy is just as important as the legacy itself.

Jews around the world are familiar with the famous Biblical verse:

Torah tziva lanu Moshe morashah kehilat Yaakov.” (“The Torah that Moses commanded us is the heritage of the Congregation of Jacob.”) (Deuteronomy 33:4)

In an article written in honor of Yom HaAtzma’ut, Rav Yechiel Wasserman notes that this verse employs the word, “morashah” (heritage) rather than the more common, “yerushah” (inheritance).

Rav Wasserman cites Rabbenu Bechaye, who explains that yerushah refers to a gift which comes with no strings attached. In contrast, a morashah must be subsequently bequeathed to future generations.

As committed Jews, we are challenged with the responsibility of preserving, protecting, and safeguarding the Torah while simultaneously bequeathing it to the next generation.

May we be privileged to discover the proper means to transmit this legacy to our children in a way which is meaningful to them yet does not detract from our heritage.

American-Israeli blogger “Mrs. S.” ( made aliyah from the United States with her husband and kids eleven years ago.

Thanks Mrs.S. for this insightful contribution and for reminding us of our responsibility in the transmission of the Torah.

Mesorah Project I
Mesorah Project II

12 thoughts on “Mesorah Project III

  1. Very nicely said! A gift with no strings vs. one with obligations. You are a good teacher, Mrs. S. I like the way you can say so much in such a brief and clear manner.

    I have a comment on the shul in Hungary; my friend has been there. I’ll leave it on that post, Ilana-Davita.

  2. Beautiful. Thank you for this. Speaking of the fact that a morashah must be transmitted wholly, as opposed to a yerushah which one may dispose of as he wishes:

    I once heard Rabbi Angel – I forget whether the father (Marc) or the son (Hayyim) – speak about a certain historical incident:

    Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish-Portuguese congregation in NYC, was considering whether to become Orthodox or Conservative. The congregation had been traditional since its founding in the 17th century – Sephardim know nothing of sectarianism – but now this was sometime in the early 20th century, and the question had to be considered.

    One member of the congregation, certain Benjamin Cardozo – then a young man of some twenty or so years of age – stood up and gave an impassioned speech. He himself was not traditional or observant, he said, but all the same, he continued, we have an obligation to transmit authentic Judaism to our children. Any individual Jew can choose – as he himself apparently had – not to be observant, but we must preserve Judaism itself, so that our children at least have the authentic Judaism before them, whether to accept or reject.

    Rabbi Angel concluded that before Cardozo spoke, people had been tending towards making the congregation Conservative, and that it was due only to Cardozo’s impassioned and persuasive speech that Shearith Israel is Orthodox to this day.

  3. Mrs. S.: Thank you for your well articulated and lovely prose.

    Indeed…discovering the correct form of transmitting this legacy to our children is of extreme importance, not only for their sakes, but for future generations to come.

    Thank you for hosting this, Ilana-Davita.

  4. Pingback: Weekly Wrap Up « Ilana-Davita

  5. JewWishes and Rachel – I’m glad you enjoyed this post.

    Ilana-Davita – It is truly amazing how each contributor focuses on a different facet of our beautiful tradition. Thanks again for this lovely initiative.

  6. Pingback: Mesorah Project Round Up « Ilana-Davita

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