If I have this correct, the Torah calls only two items מורשה - the Torah, itself as in Devarim 33:4 and the land of Israel (Cana'an) as in Shemot 6:8. I read, I think in both Art Scroll as well as Book of Our Heritage, that מורשה means "heritage" and ירושה means "inheritance".


Why are these two specific items called a מורשה rather than ירושה ? What makes these two items special?

What, if there is any, relationship of these two items to each other that they are both called מורשה.

  • Heritage does not mean the same thing as inheritance. We did not inherit the Land of Israel. G-d gave it to us.
    – ezra
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 21:12
  • @ezra View the definition of the word נחלה, which is used often regarding possession of the land. Additionally, the verb להוריש or some form, is used, which would mean "to inherit". The term "inheritance" doesn't necessarily imply a gift from an ancestor to the next generation. But, even if it did, one could argue that the land was given to our forefathers, and they did live in Cana'an.
    – DanF
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 3:01
  • Indeed, the word מורשה appears in exactly 9 places in Tanach, the two that you mentioned being the only ones in the Torah. Another seven appear in Yechezkel (11:15, 25:4, 25:10, 33:24, 36:2, 36:3, 36:5). Yes, 11:15, 33:24, and 36:2 and :5 refer to Eretz Yisrael as a מורשה. However, 25:4 and :10, and 36:3, refer to nations being given over to other nations as a מורשה. While this doesn’t invalidate your q, since you refer specifically to the Torah, it is something to think about. (I may have missed some - Sefaria seemed to fix their search engine in the latest beta but it may still be flawed.)
    – DonielF
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 3:28
  • Perhaps the title should read something like “Why are specifically the Torah and the Land of Israel called a Morasha?” which seems to fit what your actually asking better.
    – DonielF
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 3:30
  • @DonielF Thanks for both comments, but esp. the 2nd. I will update the title. Your first comment is something I have to view, later for the other usages of the word. It may warrant a separate question.
    – DanF
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 14:40

2 Answers 2


THe usage of מורשה as heritage differs from the usage of ירושה based on what the person inheriting the property is allowed to do with it as well as how it is handed down generation to generation. A heritage is similar to the English law of entailed property in which the property must be passed down through the heirs and may not be sold or given to anyone else.

This is why the halachah of יובל (Yovel -Jubilee year) requires that all land in Eretz Yisrael must return to their original owners. Similarly, the Torah was given by Hashem to Bnai Yisrael in the same way and is something that they cannot give up or abandon under any circumstances. It is what makes us a nation and we cannot exist without it, nor can it ever be taken away from us.

Art Scroll points out in the name of Rabbi Mordechai Gifter (V'zos Habracha 33:4):

An inheritance belongs to the heirs to use and dispose of as they please. A heritage, however, is the property of generations before and after; it is incumbent on the heirs to preserve it intact.

Similarly, it is not just that the land was purchased or conquered or obtained by Bnai Yisrael in the normal way that land is transferred in the rest of the world. It is the creation of Hashem who kept the ownership and made it the *property of Bnai Yisrael in the same way that He gave them the Torah at Sinai. In both cases, they cannot give it up or abandon it. They must continue ownership and live according to the way that Hashem has decreed.

Just as the Torah cannot be taken over by any of the goyim, so too the land of Israel cannot be taken over and possessed by any goyim no matter what they might pretend.

Art Scroll also cites Pesachim 49b and Drashos Maharal that the term מורשה is homiletically related to מְאוֹרָשָׂה married in that the Torah is the property of all of Bnai Yisrael and is the property of the entire nation. Thus it can never be torn away by any group (even among Bnai Yisrael). Similarly, the land, even though divided among the tribes, is also the property of the entire nation and can never be taken over, even if others may (temporarily) conquer it.

  • +1 for the ArtScroll quote. What book was that from?
    – ezra
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 1:19
  • 1
    @ezra Stone edition of the Chumash Devarim V'zos Habracha 33:4 Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 1:22
  • So how does this fit in with the examples I brought from Yechezkel?
    – DonielF
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 3:34
  • @DonielF Yechezkel 36:3 is the (false) claim of the nations. 25:4 and 25:10 was because Hashem gave it against the normal rules of inheritance to remove the nations being punished. 11:15 was also about the (false) claim that the exile of Yechoniah losing the connection to the land. Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 10:06

HaKtav V'HaKabbalah to Exodus (6:8) suggests that 'yerusha' would imply something to be immediately received, whereas 'morasha' would imply something to be constantly passed on. Accordingly, both the land of Israel and the Torah are termed 'morasha'. The former, since the generation of the wilderness didn't inherit it; their descendants did. The latter is also termed morasha since each generation is obligated in it just like the first generation if recipients.

In his commentary to Deuteronomy (33:4) he writes similarly in the name of R. Naftali Hertz Weissel, that the Torah is called מורשה not ירושה, since as Avot (2:12) states, the Torah is not a ירושה. That is, a person doesn't automatically receive it; rather, it is a מורשה whose rightful owner passes on to its descendants (but which apparently may only be practically acquired through hard work).

It should be noted, however, that Targum Onkelos renders מורשה as ירותא (Exodus 6:8 and Deuteronomy 33:4); the Aramaicisation of ירושה, and the same word used to translate ירושה (Deut. 2:9, 2:19, etc.). Radak to Ezekiel (33:24) also seems to equate the words.

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