Monday, July 10, 2006

Inherent Value

Where there’s a will there’s change

As the rather elaborate buffet of news pieces regarding Warren Buffett’s $37 billion dollar gift begins to come to crumbs and the media looks for some other delectable item in which to sink its teeth and satisfy its palate, a dish of an exotic and poignant nature simmers sinfully over a low fire – Inheritance is its name and spicy its effects.

For some, the dish of Inheritance is most fulfilling – nothing like savoring an ambrosia someone else has cooked; for others, the dish of Inheritance is most nauseating – how can one appreciate something they’ve never earned; and still others, the vast majority I should say, have never even had a taste of this rare-yet-well-done delicacy.

As delicate a dish 37 billion spices may produce, the dish of Inheritance seems to be more delicate yet. Mr. Buffett, with his $37 billion reality check, has opened a safety-deposit box containing Pandora. But though some might see Buffett’s act as a nuisance to their impurely selfish selves – who need question our inherent existence – many see it as an opportunity to understand our inherent value – does the dish of Inheritance make humanity more appetizing or does it give us a stomachache?

Whether the second richest man in the world[i] thought the majority of his $44 billion would be too much for his next-of-kin to digest, and therefore announced his decision to donate it to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, only he alone can tell; what we can tell is that Warren E Buffett does not believe money is earned to be a measuring stick for personal value – if he did, he would not give %85 of his fortune away, lest he become %85 less a man. From Mr. Buffet’s charitable actions, one can see he believes the buck does not stop at individual gain.

In fact, Buffet himself has said: estate tax[ii] is “in keeping with the idea of equality of opportunity in this country, not giving incredible head starts to certain people who were very selective about the womb from which they emerged;” while repealing the tax would be the equivalent of “choosing the 2020 Olympic team by picking the eldest sons of the gold-medal winners in the 2000 Olympics.”


As far as dishes go, the original Inheritance recipe (to my limited gastronomical knowledge) is in this week’s Torah portion, Parshas Pinchas[iii]. Over the years, through the great study halls of Babylonia to the mystical mountains of Tzfat, the fine ingredients of Inheritance have been pondered, argued, pulled apart, put back together again, and fine-tuned into a comprehensive collection of laws made to maximize this dish’s scrumptiousness[iv].

The Torah[v] – a divine cookbook for all participants in the culinary delights of Life; not just for the black-coated, gray-bearded specialty chefs lost (and found) in the yellowed pages of the Talmud – does not define the process of inheritance[vi] as an estate being transferred from one, deceased entity to a second, separate entity, by and by enhancing that second entity; rather, the Torah defines the process of inheritance involving but one entity, with the inheritors continuing – and, in fact, perpetuating – the “deceased’s” estate[vii]. Inheritance (all money, or life, for that matter) is not about any individual gain, but rather, about the gain of a better world.

We live in a world that looks at one’s net worth but ignores one’s inherent value; we choose to see the diamonds around someone’s neck but fail to see the diamonds in someone’s soul.

Is a child born to rags any less a child than one born to riches; is a baby born with a silver spoon in its mouth any more a baby than one born with barely a plastic spoon in its mouth?

The Torah says no: we do not choose to be born into poor families, nor do we not choose to be born into rich families[viii]. The only choice we really have is what we do with that which was given to us. While many may see the dish of Inheritance as a guarantee to never have to cook another meal, the Torah sees it as an obligation to feed those who are hungry; while many may see Inheritance as a great burden lifted off weary shoulders, the Torah sees it as great responsibility to use the means bestowed upon you to make the world a better place.


Ever since the beginning of time, a global needle has constantly been perpetuating a common thread of purpose through the universal lining, slowly but surely stitching together a world of perfection. From father to son, mother to daughter, an inheritance invaluable makes its way along the annals of history, through present-day life and, if one man’s 37 billion reasons are any indication, into a bright future.

We are all inherently valuable; otherwise, we wouldn’t be. The only question is not whether or not the will changes us but whether or not we have the will to change the world.

[i] Forbes magazine, 2006.
[ii] The taxation of a deceased individual’s estate.
[iii] The Chumash, the Five Books of Moses is split into 53 Parshos, Sedras or potions. Every week we read and “focus” on another portion, so that at year’s end, on Simchas Torah, we would have covered the entire Written Torah.
[iv] For detailed Inheritance Laws, see Encyclopedia Talmudis, Erech Yerushah (The section of Yerushah, Inheritance). See the footnotes there for sources – the RaMBaM’s Mishnah Torah, Hilchos Nachalos; Hachinuch, Mitzvah #400; SMah”G, Positives, #96, amongst others.
[v] See Lekkutei Sichos, vol. 28, pp.174 (Pinchos), at length.
[vi] Bamidbar, 27,8
[vii] And, therefore, in the Gaonim and Risohnim, there’s a dispute whether or not one who leaves the beliefs of his father is fit to inherit his father’s estate. (see Encyclopedia Talmudis, vol. 25, pp. 190, at length)
[viii] Nidah, 16b


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Presenting ideas as both fun and informative, is a rather difficult task for the writer, but a most fulfilling experience for the reader.

Kudos to jakeyology on a job well done.

7/10/2006 9:57 AM  
Anonymous first time commenter long time reader said...

i cannot decide if i like your prose better or your poetry better (though even your prose is highly poetic)

don't stop writing!!!

7/10/2006 5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i didnt know the chumash was split into 53 potions! o shut up (that was to me). great piece jake.

7/11/2006 9:55 PM  
Blogger jakeyology said...

i really did write potions, wow; freudian slip.

how do you catch this stuff, specially a footnote? i should hire you.

(should i change it, or leave a zaycher l'churben?)

7/12/2006 12:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you have also perpetuated the evilness of using the word perpetuated twice. it's ok, but it kind of stands out (especially with only 832 words to obscure)

7/12/2006 9:14 AM  
Anonymous shallow hal said...

i realized, the better the ARTicle, the fewer the responses.

are people that shallow!!??

7/14/2006 4:11 AM  
Blogger anonym00kie said...

thats one of the most abided by blog-rules, the better the post, the fewer the comments..

great post, brilliant writing! im not sure if id have the heart to do what buffet did.. but its definitely impressive..
i wonder how his kids view it..

8/01/2006 10:15 AM  
Blogger Lvnsm27 said...

Excellent post

8/01/2006 11:36 AM  

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