Two Kinds of Legacy

When you die, your possessions will be distributed according to a will in which you allocated property to specific people. Objects left in a will are called a legacy.

But "legacy" also has a much deeper meaning.

In Jewish tradition, people write "ethical wills" in which they pass on to the next generation, especially their children, the gift of wisdom and good wishes. This legacy is far more profound and permanent than bequests of property.

An ethical will is often a personal letter to the most important people in our lives. It conveys our values, convictions and hopes. An ethical will is also an autobiography - not of events and dates, but of the insights and intuitions that define who we are and tell the world what we stand for and what we think is important.

These documents provide a priceless and prized source of loving advice and can become treasured family heirlooms. Because they are about ethics, they also can become a moral compass that helps loved ones navigate their way to worthy and happy lives.

Yet no matter how highly cherished these letters can be for those who receive them, the process of writing them can change your perspective and cause you to readjust your own priorities.

What would you put in your ethical will? When you can, begin writing down everything you might want to pass on to the people you love. But know this: Once you start, it will be hard to stop as you'll experience a surge of thoughts that will engulf you with all the subconscious beliefs that make you who you are and what you will be.

According to Socrates, the touchstone of wisdom is to first know thyself. Try it, and you'll see why.

Michael Josephson
Speaker and Radio Commentator
www.charactercounts.org

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