Excerpt Browser

This page displays the full text of excerpts.  When viewing a single excerpt, its “Share,” “Switch Article,” and “Comment” functions are accessible.

GENESIS — 18:19 instruct

GEN979 The whole question of a will is fascinating.  In our modern culture, men leave wills which allocate their properties, money, and worldly goods among their heirs.  But are those the most valuable things one has to leave to his children? Is not our modern will another expression of the idolatry of wealth which runs counter to the whole thrust of religion and especially of Judaism? Isn’t such a will [it?-AJL]self an ultimate surrender to materialism?  Our forefathers left a much different kind of will.  It was known as an ethical will. It contained no list of assets and properties.  It contained, instead, a distillation of the truth which a man had accumulated in his lifetime.  It contained his most important assets — the values and wisdom which, as the end appears in sight, he wished to pass on as his proudest legacy to his survivors.  From the twelfth century to the seventeenth of the Common Era it was the custom of Jewish fathers to leave explicit directions for the guidance of their children in the form of a last testament.  However, the tradition of the verbal testament goes right back to Abraham, of whom God said [this verse].  … The Bible abounds with these admonitions — uttered sometimes directly from father to son and sometimes from a leader to his people. Witness the blessing of Jacob, David’s counsel to Solomon, and the final instructions given to the people of Israel by Moses and Joshua.  The Apocrypha presents several sublime examples of these testaments.  Both the mother and the father of the Maccabees left words of inspirational wisdom to guide their five sons. However, that section of the Apocrypha known as The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs is perhaps the most remarkable of all.  Each of the sons of Jacob sketches his own role in the drama of Joseph’s exile, and drawing upon these experiences, counsels his son.  … These texts inspired Jewish parents for two thousand years to leave similar legacies of spirit. The inspiration was not left to chance, however. It became an actual rubric in the Jewish code, enjoining fathers to leave behind instructions for their children to follow. … One of the most remarkable ethical testaments, The Gate of Instruction is attributed to Maimonides.  VORSPN: Jewish Values & Social Crisis: A Casebook for Social Action 349-50


Back To Top