Why wait to bequeathChaye Sara, Genesis 23:1-25:18
When it comes to bequeathing our valuables to the next generation, there are two options.
First, we can adopt the policy of “better to spend it now on my children and grandchildren while I have the ability to revel in the gift, to enjoy our interactions, to see their smiles.”
We know many parents/grandparents like this. They take their families on trips, to the theater and provide them with all their needs. When death comes, those who are left behind have a treasure chest of the memories that were funded by loving gifts before death came.
Second, we can hold it all close to the vest and save the transmission of our fortune to our children and grandchildren until after we die. We know many parents and grandchildren like this. While generous in our day, they hold the majority of the fortune for another time. When death comes in this instance, memories are enhanced with a larger gift than we might have expected. However, the anxiety of not knowing the extent of the forthcoming gift, might cause anxiety.
Many might think that the first scenario is better than the second. Why not share your wealth while you can enjoy the rewards of witnessing the joy on the faces of our children? In an ideal world, wouldn’t it be better to do that as opposed to not witnessing the joy?
Funny then, that in this week’s Torah portion, we learn that Abraham willed all that he owned to Isaac; but to Abraham’s sons by the concubines he gave gifts while he was still living, and he sent them away from his son Isaac eastward, to the land of the East. (Genesis 25:4-6)
If Isaac was the favorite son, why did Abraham deprive himself from experiencing the joy of witnessing the gift?
Rashi teaches us that the willed gift to Isaac was the type of gift that could only be passed on after Abraham’s death. Abraham gave him a permanent blessing, for the Holy One, blessed be God, had said to Abraham “and you shall be a blessing.” Abraham’s bequeath to Isaac was the ability to bless whomever he wish.
You see, there are some gifts that have to wait a lifetime to be given because life experience is needed to receive them, because the recipient needs to step into a place once occupied by the giver, because blessings are more valuable than riches.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)