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Sunday, 21 December 2014

Stop being a reactive Jew

Daf Yomi Yevamos 77

The Goldsteins used to live in Edmonton.   One day, young Jimmy came home from junior high public school with his non-Jewish girlfriend.  Mr. Goldstein wasted no time.  Within a month, he had found a job in Toronto.  He packed up his family and moved east.  The kids were all enrolled in Jewish dayschools and today Jimmy is happily married to a wonderful Jewish young lady who he met while he was studying at Yeshiva University.  Who knows what might have become of Jimmy had Mr. Goldstein not taken that huge reactive step?

The Torah declares, “An Ammonite and a Moabite [convert] may not enter the community of G-d.”
The Mishnah states: While Ammonite and Moabite males are forbidden forever, the females are permitted immediately.

The Gemara asks: Whence do we derive this ruling?
Doeg the Edomite said to King Saul: Ask about David whether he is fitting to enter the community, for he comes from Ruth the Moabite.  Amasa then girded his sword and said, “Whoever does not accept this law shall be pierced by the sword: So did I hear from the court of Samuel of Ramah, ‘An Ammonite, but not an Ammonitess; a Moabite, but not a Moabitess (are excluded from the community).’

The Gemara continues: But can we trust Amasa?  Did we not learn Rav’s teaching from Rabbi Aba concerning a scholar who comes to teach a new law: If he taught it prior to an actual matter, we heed him; but if not, we do not heed him.
The Gemara answers: Here is different, for Samuel and his court were still in existence and the matter could be verified with them. 

Jimmy was one of the lucky ones.  Mr. Goldstein reacted quickly and unequivocally to the situation his family was facing.  But many people aren’t as lucky.  When you react defensively to an actual matter, you run the risk of taking action too late.  When it comes to the spiritual success of yourself and your children, you can’t afford to be reactive, you need to be proactive.

That doesn’t mean that everyone needs to live in Toronto or New York.  What it does mean is that you can’t afford to wait until it’s too late to let your kids know your values.  I’ve heard way too many parents say, ‘Oh, they’re just dating, it’s not serious.  I’m not worried that he’ll actually marry her.’  As Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky says, “Nobody I know has gotten married without dating.”  In other words, dating leads to marriage. 

By the time your kid, G-d forbid, tells you that she wants to marry her non-Jewish boyfriend, it’s too late to have the conversation about your values.  That discussion needs to happen at the same time you have the talk about the birds and the bees.  And then again every week at the Shabbat table.   If it’s prior to an actual matter, they will heed you; but if not, they will not heed you.

Like everything in life for which you seek success, you need a plan.  You need to be proactive, not reactive.  If you plan to live in a small Jewish community, what’s your plan to keep your kids Jewish?  If you have a plan and you are proactively teaching your kids your values, then you will merit children who follow in your footsteps and give you nachas from grandchildren and great-grandchildren who are committed to our heritage!

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