Lectures on the weekly Torah reading by the faculty of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. A project of the Faculty of Jewish Studies, Paul and Helene Shulman Basic Jewish Studies Center, and the Office of the Campus Rabbi. Published on the Internet under the sponsorship of Bar-Ilan University's International Center for Jewish Identity.
Parashat Va-era 5760/2000
"I Will Give it to You for a Possession (morashah)" (Exodus 6:8)
Dr. Abraham Gottlieb
Center for Jewish Studies
At the end of last week's reading, Parashat Shemot, Moses realizes
that he has failed in his mission and says to the Holy One, blessed be
He: "O Lord, why did You bring harm upon this people? Why did You send
me? (Ex. 5:22-23). In the context of this exchange the Lord promises Moses
in Parashat Va-era that the Israelites, moaning under Egyptian oppression,
will witness G-d's fulfillment of the covenant He made with the patriarchs,
giving them the land of Canaan (Ex. 6:2-8).
Say, therefore, to the Israelite people: I am the Lord. I will free you from the labors of the Egyptians and deliver you from their bondage. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and through extraordinary chastisements. And I will take you to be My people, and I will be your G-d. And you shall know that I, the Lord, am your G-d who freed you from the labors of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession (morashah), I the Lord.
The classical exegetes did not find any difficulty here and did not
see any need to comment on this passage, whereas the rabbis of the Talmud
saw plenty of reason for dwelling on this verse, in two separate places
(Bava Batra 117a-b; 119b). What is more, two commentators -- Rabbi
Joseph ben Isaac Bekhor Shor  and Ha-Shelah ha-Kadosh, Rabbi Isaiah
ben Abraham ha-Levi Horowitz  -- who addressed the question, rely on
the above-mentioned gemarot in Bava Batra in order to resolve
the difficulty. Bekhor Shor does not even state that there is a difficulty
but explains the text in such a way as to smooth over any problem. In
contrast, the Shelah notes explicitly that there is a difficulty, which
he resolves by relying on the discussion in Bava Batra 117a-b, which
is the source for the other sugya in Bava Batra 119b, cited
by Bekhor Shor.
Bekhor Shor explains morashah as follows: "It is the inheritance given you from them; moreover, you shall bequeath it on to your children. Thus it is hinted to them that they shall not enter the land, as stated in [Talmudic chapter] yesh nohalin (Bava Batra 119b)." According to Bekhor Shor, it is clear why the Torah used morashah (bequest) here and not yerushah (inheritance): what is at issue is an inheritance which will not be realized, since those who took part in the Exodus would die in the wilderness and not enter the land.
Ha-Shelah ha-Kadosh, as we said, cites the earlier talmudic discussion:
"I will give it to you for a possession (morashah)." There is a difficulty here, since it should have said yerushah, inheritance, since they are the inheritors and not the bequeathers. Rather, one can explain this along the lines noted by the Sages (Bava Batra 117a): "This inheritance differs from all other inheritances in the world, for in the case of other inheritances the living become heirs to the dead, but here the dead become heirs to the living." Rashi cites all this in his comment on Parashat Phinehas (Num. 26:55). In other words, the inheritance returned [to the previous generation that died in the wilderness] to be bequeathed by them. This is the reason: those who died in the wilderness were the ones for whom the inheritance was destined but they did not have the fortune to enter the land, therefore the inheritance reverted to them (becoming the land that they would bequeath, morasha). This shows the Almighty's quality of fairness, having mercy and pitying those who were in distress.
"As the heritage (morashah) of the congregation of Jacob" -- this is the second occurrence of morashah, the first being in Parshat Va-era: "I will give it to you for a possession (morashah)" (Exodus 6:8). The one [in Deut.] is said with respect to the Torah, the other with respect to inheritance, to indicate that the Torah is not a heritage (yerushah) which comes to a person easily; rather one must work for it and occupy oneself with it day and night, always pondering it.