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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 1, 2008 / 28 Sivan 5768

Too much inheritance?

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: I think it's important to leave a legacy to my children. How much should I save towards this end?


A: The sages of the Talmud had a nuanced view of bequests. On the one hand, they strongly encouraged a person to leave the bulk of his or her assets to their family, and not give it all away to strangers or charity. But saving specifically for a legacy is also not encouraged. Children need to be given a good start in life; afterwards we should be most concerned about our spiritual legacy.

The following two stories from the Talmud seem to show a particularly dismissive attitude towards saving for grown children.

Shmuel said to Rabbi Yehudah: Sharp-witted one, grab and eat, grab and drink; for this world, whence we must depart, is like a wedding feast. Rav said to Rabbi Hamnuna: My son, if you have, enjoy; for in the nether world there is no enjoyment, and death will not wait. And if you say, I would leave it to my children? Who can promise provision in the nether world. People are like the plants of the field; these flourish and these whither. (1)

Today we might interpret this as saying, make sure you children know you expect them to be self-sufficient, and that they shouldn't rely on you for financial security. In the world of the Talmudic sages the message is a bit different; nobody has true financial security; rather, we fulfill our earthly responsibility to earn a living and trust in G-d that He will provide for us through our efforts. Likewise, we have confidence that G-d will provide for our children; however, with regard to them there is not even any responsibility to exert ourselves for them; they have the responsibility to exert themselves for themselves and their families.

The Talmud tells about the great sage Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish:

However, there is also a very well-known story which seems to have the opposite message. "Choni the circle-maker", who in time of drought "threatened" G-d that he would not leave his circle until He brought rain, was later involved in the following incident:

One day he was traveling and saw a man planting a carob tree. He said to him, how long will it be until it bears fruit? He said, as long as seventy years. He said, are you certain you will live seventy years? He said, I found a world with carob trees; just as my fathers planted for me, so I plant for my children. (3)

(Rabbi Shimon Golan explains that Choni, who was so impatient that he impertinently demanded that G-d provide rain this instant, needed a reminder that G-d's providence looks over the long term, and not always the here and now.)

The message seems to be that it is appropriate to make sure that your children have productive assets that will enable them to make a living, rather than piling up possessions to leave them after you are gone. This theme is also evident in the Torah commandment of the jubilee, which requires that even if a person has sold a field, when the jubilee year comes around the field must be returned to the person or his heirs, thus providing them a minimal basis for their livelihood. (Leviticus chapter 25.) However, the main responsibility of providing children with a livelihood is when they are young, to give them a good start in life when they start a family. It is considered a mitzvah (the fulfillment of a Divine commandment) to provide a youngster with instruction in a trade so that he will be self-sufficient later on. (4)

At any rate, if a person does have assets when he passes away they should be given to the heirs. We find that many commandments of the Torah relate to the disposition of estates, and the following Talmudic story is also instructive:

When [Mar Ukva] died, he said: Bring me the accounting of my charity donations. He found that it amounted to seven thousand dinar. He said: My provisions are light and the way is long; he immediately gave away [to charity] half of his possessions. (5)

Although Mar Ukva felt that giving additional charity was a foremost priority, in order to increase his merit as he approached the World of Truth, note that he did not give away all his possessions. His legacy to his children was equally important to him. Indeed, the 16th century authority Rabbi Moshe Isserless writes that if a person leaves a vague will stating merely that his assets should be disposed "in the best way", they should be given to his children, for this is the best way to divide someone's estate. (6)

The Chasidic tradition has an interesting interpretation of this principle. G-d grants each person material resources in order to carry out his unique mission in life. However, our mission is so vast that a person cannot complete it in one lifetime. However, our children are meant to carry on our spiritual mission in this world. Thus it is logical that they should also inherit any wealth that is left over when we die. This is like the baton we pass our children in the relay of the generations. (7)

SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, Eiruvin 54a (2) Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 47a (3) Babylonian Talmud, Taanis 23a (4) Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 306:6 (5) Babylonian Talmud, Ketubos 67b. (6) Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 282 (7) Likutei Halachos (Breslav), laws of inheritance.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.

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