I have heard from many Christians that in their religion, it is common for a family to have a fine-bound edition of their scriptures which is given down to successive generations.

Is there any analogous custom in our communities to have seforim (for argument's sake, let's say a Tana"ch) which are given as heirlooms to successive generations?

  • 4
    I have a Tanach from my great-grandfather's bar mitzvah in 1912, a 1940 machzor, and various haggadot from the 1950's and 60's, but I cannot speak to whether this kind of collecting is common, or an individual result of my not wanting to get rid of any books that I found in my grandparents' house. FWIW, an ArtScroll "Stone" Chumash has pages in it to fill out a family tree, implying it might be used as a family record like Christians sometimes do.
    – Mike
    Dec 23 '14 at 22:12
  • I think the big family Bible is mainly a Catholic tradition. It would often have a handwritten family tree at the beginning.
    – TRiG
    Dec 24 '14 at 0:06
  • Our seforim are used so much during our lifetime, by the time we're old and ready to turn it in the books are usually so beat-up they can't be passed down. Ex: a siddur.
    – ezra
    Mar 22 '17 at 14:44

All types of religious articles are commonly passed onto descendants - candle sticks, tallitot, tefillin, etc.

Books are probably the most important items to pass on. My father left me his siddur and my grandfather left me his set of Ramba"m's Mishneh Torah. (I don't recall the publisher, but it's a pretty well-known set. Has a tan front with black siding. It's about 16 volumes and includes Iggeret Haramba"m.)

I consider books more important and cherished of all of the articles in aligning with the adage "Talmud Torah k'neged kulam" - learning Torah is most important. What better way to remember your close relative than using the same books s/he did?


I have a set of Mishnah Brurah from my great grandfather (I use his picture in my signature) with the Chofetz Chaim's notation "mugah" (checked) written in it. The problem with heirloom seforim is that, if they are used to learn from, they will get tattered from being used so much, no matter how careful one is. If they are in fine condition, that could mean that they are not really used. After a long period of time the pages get brittle and the ink fades.

  • Is your getting those books your custom or just a coincidence?
    – Double AA
    Dec 24 '14 at 3:31
  • @DoubleAA Not custom, but not coincidence either. My great grandfather bought them when they were new and they came to me through yerushah. Dec 24 '14 at 4:50

The ArtScroll "Stone Edition" Pentateuch has spaces in it to record family members' yahrzeits. I've no doubt this is in order that purchasers might implement the custom you mention.

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