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Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Is Your Child a Leader?

Megillah 5

A number of years ago, Rabbi J.J. Schacter visited Edmonton as scholar-in-residence for the Superstein Shabbaton.  The shabbaton was sponsored by Donny Superstein in honour of his parents, Jake and Ruth.  Although he occasionally returns to Edmonton for business, nowadays Donny lives in Phoenix. 

Sitting at the Shabbos table, Rabbi Schacter asked Donny about his family.  At the time, Donny was divorced, but had a teenage son, Joey.
“Where’s Joey?” asked Rabbi Schacter.
“He’s in Phoenix with his mom,” replied Donny, “He’s normally with me weekends, but he stayed with his mother this week because I came up for the shabbaton.”
“Donny,” said Rabbi Schacter gently, “Did you ever think what an impression it would make on Joey to have him see how you are spending your money?  As a parent, the greatest impact you could make on your son is to bring him up-close to watch you so that he can become involved in your philanthropic activities.  Your role as a dad is to demonstrate to Joey the true purpose of money!”

Rabbi Elazar quoted Rabbi Chanina: Rebbe (Rabbi Judah the Prince) planted on Purim, and bathed in the Tzippori marketplace on 17th Tamuz, and wanted to uproot Tisha b’Av (the national day of tragedy commemorating the destruction of the Holy Temple) but the Sages did not agree with him. 
Rabbi Aba bar Zavda responded: That wasn’t the story.  It wasn’t a regular Tisha b’Av; rather, it was a Tisha b’Av that had fallen on Shabbos.  Since the fast was pushed off (to the next day), Rebbe felt that it should be pushed off completely (i.e. there should be no fast that year).  That was the proposal that the Sages did not agree with. 
Rabbi Elazar was pleased with Rabbi Aba’s response and he applied to him the verse in Ecclesiastes, “Two [heads] are better than one,” in gratitude for having clarified what really took place. 

Asks the Gemara: How did Rebbe plant on Purim?  According to Rabbi Joseph, one may not do work on the festival of Purim!  (The Halacha does not accord with Rabbi Joseph.)  
The Gemara answers: Rebbe was in Tiberias, a walled city where Purim is celebrated on the 15th Adar.  As the Mishnah taught, all cities that were walled in the time of Joshua celebrated Purim like Shushan, on the 15th Adar.  Since when Rebbe planted, it was the 14th – and not yet Purim in a walled city like Tiberias – it was permissible even according to Rabbi Joseph.

Tosfos quotes the Talmud in tractate Avodah Zarah, which proves that Rebbe lived in Tiberias during the time of his friendship with Roman Emperor (Marcus Aurelius) Antoninus. 
In one exchange, the emperor tells Rebbe, “I have two wishes.  Firstly, I would like my son Asuerus to succeed me. Secondly, due to the abundance of Torah scholars here, I would like to make Tiberias a tax-free zone.  But I am afraid that if I submit both of these requests to the Senate, they will fulfill one, they would not fulfill both.  What should I do?”
Rebbe brought a man riding on the shoulders of another man.  He placed a dove in the hand of the upper man and said to the lower man, “Tell the upper man to let the dove fly forth from his hand!”
Antoninus understood, “Rebbe is teaching me: You should request that Asuerus succeed you and then tell Asuerus to make Tiberias a tax-free zone!”

Maimonides was succeeded as the head of the Jewish community in Egypt by his son, Abraham.  Despite his late arrival to Maimonides’ life (he was forty eight when his son was born), he was immediately taken under his father’s wing for all matters communal.  From a young age, Abraham would sit next to Maimonides watching as he dealt with rabbinic questions, government relations and community affairs.   Maimonides understood how to guarantee that his child would be as dedicated to community as he was.

Our Sages tell us that there are two people that one does not envy in the world – one’s student and one’s child.  We all want to see our children not just succeed but soar to even greater accomplishments than we ourselves achieved.  Rebbe’s message to Antoninus – Rabbi Schacter’s message to Donny – was that your child is an extension of yourself.  In your short lifetime, you can only achieve so much – start investing your communal aspirations in your child and your reach will continue way beyond you.

As community leaders, we are sometimes so caught up in communal matters that we forget to train our own children to be leaders.  Invest in your child’s leadership abilities and qualities!  Bring them into the conversation from an early age!  Get them inspired to follow in your footsteps!  Your leadership accomplishments will continue for generations to come!

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