Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: "The Torah is not somebody's monopoly"


On the one hand, "the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob" means that it is a legacy for my forefathers, for myself, and for my descendants, throughout the generations. 

Even one who left this path a hundred years ago, and presently knows nothing about it, can still return and reconnect himself with the Torah, saying: "It is to my ancestors' property that I am returning." 

On the other hand, no one can hold the Torah in his lap and claim that it is his own private property, or that it belongs only to his specific circle or group. 

For the Torah is the patrimony of the Jewish people as a whole which includes each and every one of its individual members.

How was this inheritance robbed? 

It got lost in the wanderings, in the exiles, in the "desert of the nations," sometimes even in our own land. 

And it is my duty to return it to its owners, to all those entitled to it. 

This calls for a great deal of work, on both ends.

On the one end are the recipients, who do not always know that they have such an inheritance. 

To use an ancient parable: a prince, born far away from his homeland, barely knows that he is of royal descent and is surely unaware that somewhere else, in another country, he has a legacy. 

What should this child – who owns an eternal bequest of which he knows not – do? 

He must learn about it, become familiar with his estate.

He must discover that there is a hidden treasure awaiting him.

On the other end are the givers, or those capable of giving. 

The Torah is not something secret, or somebody's monopoly. 

On the contrary, we are commanded and obligated to make sure that it will reach the hands of all of its potential inheritors, all those who belong to "the congregation of Jacob." 

We must not deprive them of their legacy. 

And whoever tries to veil the Torah, or hide it, or build partitions and fences around it, divests them of this heirloom, which is, and remains, theirs at all times.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From an essay, "Heritage and Inheritance" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz