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Inheritance - The "Will" of Hashem
You shall give his inheritance to his closest relative…This shall be a decree of justice for the Bnei Yisrael as Hashem commanded Moshe(Bamidbar 27,11)
Everyone acquires possessions during their lifetime. Some amass wealth while some manage with less, but in the end we all leave this world the same way we entered it - penniless. Our fortune is firmly fixed to this world and neither the advances of science nor the deepest desires of man can discover a means to take it to the next world. Therefore, lawyers advise us to make a will so that we will have peace of mind, knowing that all we have worked for is distributed according to our wishes. The Torah also contains laws of inheritance. However these are far more than just a system of redistribution of wealth. The mitzva of yerusha (inheritance) has much to teach us about appreciating Hashem's goodness and understanding the true value of our property.
The Sefer Hachinuch writes (Mitzva 400) that this mitzva serves as a reminder that Hashem controls the world and that He watches over all his creations. All that we possess in this world came to us through Hashem's will and desire. A gift that Hashem bestows is blessed and therefore eternal. Even though the world was cursed with death because of Adam's sin, Hashem's bracha (blessing) endures. Therefore when one leaves this world, his possessions extend to those who represent his continuity, namely, his offspring. And if one was not blessed with children, then his nearest kin inherits the estate, for perhaps he learnt the proper path in life from his extended family. Alternatively, the deceased may have been considered worthy of Hashem's bracha through his own merits or those of his ancestors. In either case, it is fitting for his inheritance to pass on to his closest relatives.
There are two insights we can learn from the words of Sefer Hachinuch. One lesson is that even if this world was designed to be temporary and should be seen as the means to enter Olam Haba (the Afterlife), nevertheless Hashem's blessings endures even after the recipient can no longer benefit from it. All the more so, the reward awaiting us in Olam Haba will be eternal and is beyond description. As the Mishna teaches (Avos 4:22): "Greater is one hour of bliss in the next world, than a lifetime in this world." Hashem is the essence of good and He created man to benefit from this good. We are not capable of experiencing this good in the present world. Therefore Hashem created Olam Haba, where it will be possible to receive the maximum benefit of His goodness (see Mesillas Yesharim, 1: Derech Hashem Pt. 1, ch. 2).
Another important insight relates to how we perceive the interconnection of the generations. The Michtav Me'Eliyahu (Rav Dessler zt"l) writes (vol.2 p. 217, vol. 3 p. 250) that each person has a unique role to perform in Hashem's Master Plan. Hashem gives him all the keilim (tools) he requires to fulfil this purpose. These include his physical abilities, his mental faculties, natural tendencies, talents and capabilities. Also included in this list are his circumstances, his property, his environment and all that transpires during his lifetime. Together these pieces make up the puzzle that is his unique set of tests in life. Man acquires his spiritual portion according to the manner in which he utilises these keilim and how he reacts to the challenges that confront him.
Rav Dessler adds that a person's children continue their parents' mission. This is why children usually resemble their parents in their tendencies, talents and outward appearance - they share the same tests. Therefore the children inherit their parents' property. Just as the parents needed these possessions to perform their personal service to Hashem, so too the next generation requires the same tools to enable them to fulfil their purpose.
While our fortune cannot follow us to the next world, we can merit eternity through it, by setting an example for our offspring and utilising all of Hashem's gifts wisely.
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