Acquiring Eretz Yisrael thru “Morasha”
וְהֵבֵאתִ֤י אֶתְכֶם֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֤ר נָשָׂ֙אתִי֙ אֶת־יָדִ֔י לָתֵ֣ת אֹתָ֔הּ לְאַבְרָהָ֥ם לְיִצְחָ֖ק וּֽלְיַעֲקֹ֑ב
וְנָתַתִּ֨י אֹתָ֥הּ לָכֶ֛ם מוֹרָשָׁ֖ה אֲנִ֥י ד':
I will bring you to the Land, concerning which I raised My hand to give to Avraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and I will give it to you as a heritage (morasha); I am the Lord. [Shemot (Exodus) 6:8]
תּוֹרָ֥ה צִוָּה־לָ֖נוּ מֹשֶׁ֑ה מוֹרָשָׁ֖ה קְהִלַּ֥ת יַעֲקֹֽב:
The Torah that Moshe commanded us is a legacy (morasha) for the congregation of Jacob.
[Devarim (Deuteronomy) 33:4]
What is “Morasha”?
The word “morasha” appears in the Torah only in the two pesukim (verses) quoted above. What is the meaning of the word? Is there a connection between the use of the word in concerning Torah and concerning Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel)?
Chazal (Our Sages) understood morasha to be similar to “yerusha” (inheritance), which raises an apparent contradiction. Chazal taught "רבי יוסי אומר: יהי ממון חברך חביב עליך כשלך, והתקן עצמך ללמוד תורה שאינה ירושה לך, וכל מעשיך יהיו לשם שמיים" (“Perfect yourself for the study of Torah, for it is not an inheritance to you”) [Avot 2:12]. On the other hand, we have the Gemara (Talmudic) statement: "כל המונע הלכה מפי תלמיד כאילו גוזלו מנחלת אבותיו, שנאמר: "תורה צוה לנו משה מורשה קהלת יעקב" (“Rabbi Yehuda said, quoting Rav: ‘Whoever withholds a halacha from his student is considered as having robbed him of his ancestral heritage’”) [Sanhedrin 91b]. Not only is the proof-text for this assertion the verse quoted above from Deuteronomy, but the Gemara adds מורשה היא לכל ישראל מששת ימי בראשית" (“It is an inheritance from the six days of creation”). Thus, we must reconcile the Mishna’s statement with the Gemara’s understanding of the posuk.
The Answer – “Morasha” Implies Inheritance Which Requires Effort
The word “morasha”
The Jerusalem Talmud [Bava Batra 8:2] states that “morasha“ implies an element of uncertainty, which is not present in “yerusha.” Rabbeinu Beḥayye [Shemot (Exodus) 6:8] notes that the word “morasha” hints that the generation of the exodus gave the Land to their descendants as an inheritance, while they themselves did not inherit it (since that generation died in the wilderness). What is the deep significance of the uncertainty implied by “morasha”?
Torah as “Morasha”
We can resolve the apparent contradiction by suggesting that Torah is an inheritance in one sense while in another it is not. Without expending effort, one cannot understand Torah. Having a father who is a Torah scholar does not mean that the son will automatically inherit Torah. Students of Torah “banish sleep from their eyes” [Gemara Bava Batra 10a] and invest much effort in study of Torah. On this level, Torah cannot be an inheritance. On another plane, Torah can be considered an inheritance. The fact is that we do not achieve Torah exclusively on our own; it has been handed down to us through an unbroken chain of fathers to sons, from Sinai to our times. It is this inheritance of Torah which makes its validity undeniable. The source of this inheritance is the revelation at Sinai, to which the entire Nation of Israel was witness.
Eretz Yisrael (The Land of Israel) as “Morasha”
Inheriting the Land too is not a simple matter, as the Gemara teaches: "שלוש מתנות טובות נתן הקב"ה לישראל, וכלן לא נתנן אלא על ידי יסורין. אלו הן: תורה וארץ ישראל והעולם הבא" (“God gave Israel three great gifts, and each was given only through suffering; these are they: Torah, the Land of Israel and the World to Come”) [Berachot 5a]. This is the meaning of “morasha” in the context of the Land: it is not a simple inheritance which comes without any effort. Eretz Yisrael is the nation’s inheritance in the sense that it was indisputably given to Am Yisrael (the Nation of Israel), as our posuk states and as understood by the Gemara: "'ונתתי אותה לכם מורשה' - ירושה היא לכם מאבותיכם" (“’I will give you the Land as a morasha’ – It is your inheritance from your fathers”) [Bava Batra 119b]. Indeed, Rashbam comments on this Gemara statement: "קום התהלך בארץ לארכה ולרחבה כי לך אתננה" (בראשית יג, יז) כדי שיהיו "כיורשין ולא כגזלנין, ולא יהיה רשות לשטן לקטרג, ולא פתחון פה לבעל מדת הדין" (“The Holy One, blessed be He said to Abraham ‘Rise, walk in the land, to its length and to its breadth, for I will give it to you’) [Bereishit (Genesis) 13:17] so his descendants will be inheritors and not thieves, and so there be no basis to argue the descendants’ rights to the Land”).
(The apparent contradiction between the Torah referring, within the same verse to the Land as a “gift” [our posuk states “I will give it to you”] and as an inheritance is resolved by the Jerusalem Talmud’s [Bava Batra, ibid.] statement that He first gave the Land as a gift and subsequently as an inheritance.)
The conclusion is that the word “morasha” which is mentioned in connection with Torah and Eretz Yisrael indicates the effort necessary to attain each of these, as well as the fact that each of these was given to Am Yisrael in an unimpeachable manner.
Though it is necessary to invest effort in order to inherit the Land, we must not despair. Em haBanim Semeiḥa notes that though “all beginnings are difficult” [Midrash Lekaḥ Tov Shemot (Exodus) 19:5] in the end, we have been promised a successful end. Just as with Torah, the investment of effort leads to greater enjoyment of Torah study and the ability to achieve greater understanding, so too with the Land, following a period of investment of ourselves in the Land, we will be able to realize all we desire from her.
We have seen that “morasha” conveys the concept of an inheritance which requires effort to achieve. Torah and the Land were given us as incontrovertible inheritances, but not as an ordinary inheritance which is received without any effort whatsoever; Torah and Eretz Yisrael can be acquired only though suffering. Thus, we can understand the use of the word “morasha” uniquely in connection with the Land and Torah.
We Shall be As Dreamers
The seventh of the fifteen perakim of Tehilim which carry the title “Song of Ascent” [Tehilim 126] has been accepted by Jewish tradition as the introduction to Bircat Hamazon (the Grace After Meals) on days when taḥanun is not said On days which do not have a special element of rejoicing, the Tehilim (Psalm) which precedes Birkat Hamazon (the Grace) is Perek (chapter) 137. Mishna Berura [1:11] writes that these Tehilim were chosen based upon the halacha that one is obligated to be upset and concerned about the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash (Temple). The content of each of these Tehilim is Am Yisrael’s yearning to return to Eretz Yisrael and to the Beit Hamikdash. In Tehilim Perek 126 the yearning is palpable, yet there are two points which are stressed:
“When the Lord returns the returnees to Zion, we shall be like dreamers.” [v.1] Rabbi Chayim Druckman explains that this dream is similar to a student who daydreams in class: his eyes are open and he is not asleep, but he is oblivious to the lesson which is being taught and does not hear it. So it is with the redemption, which we are privileged to experience in our days. Instead of seeing the great events of the unfolding redemption, we are bogged down in the petty issues of daily life.
The second point which is stressed is “Those who sow with tears will reap with song.” [v.5] The beginning of the redemption was difficult; out of the horrendous Shoah survivors ascended to the Land and built her up. In earlier generations, the pioneers coming to Israel had to dry out swamps to create farming land. However, the continuation is astounding. What an amazing country God has helped us establish. How much power has God given to the Israeli economy; how much bounty to be have in our lives. The Land continues to flourish and grow.
May we be privileged to awaken from the dream and appreciate the greatness of our times, while remembering the travails which brought us to this stage. Amen
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