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Friday, 27 March 2015

Hope in your grandchildren!

Daf Yomi Kesubos 53

The year was 1951.  Two young men in sandals and shorts wandered into the Ponevezh yeshiva in Bnei Brak, Israel, seeking to learn Torah.  The rabbis didn’t know what to say – the chasm between secular and ultra-Orthodox Israelis was so great that they were utterly confused by the request.  They went to ask the grand rabbi, Rabbi Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz, the Chazon Ish, what to do.

The Chazon Ish said, ‘Let me tell you a story.  In late nineteenth Eastern Europe, the winds of change were blowing.  Children from the most devout families were forsaking Jewish observance and joining new movements from Bolshevism to Anarchism to Reform Judaism to Secular Zionism.   Many young secular Zionists were leaving their families and Yiddishkeit behind and travelling off to Palestine to become pioneers and work the land.   Their parents would cry and pray but it seemed their prayers went unanswered.

Their prayers did not go unanswered.  G-d took their tears and bottled them up, waiting for the storm to pass.   He then opened the bottles and sprinkled the tears upon the children of these pioneers.  When they felt that spiritual awakening, they decided to knock on the door of the yeshiva and return to the service of the Almighty.  Go and teach them Torah – their grandparents are smiling down from above, shepping nachas.’ 

Rabbi Papa was involved with marrying off his son into the family of Aba of Sura.  Off he went to write the ketubah.  Judah bar Meraimar heard about it, and so he left his house and went to accompany him.  When they arrived at Aba’s door, Judah was about to take leave.
Rabbi Papa said, ‘Please come in with me,’ but he noticed that he wasn’t comfortable entering.
He then asked him, ‘What’s bothering you?  Are you concerned about the incident where Shmuel said to Rabbi Judah: Sharp one, do not be present when an inheritance is transferred away from its rightful owner – even from a bad child to a good child, for one never knows what children will come from him.’

We must never despair of anyone – even if they never come around, who knows what will become of their offspring?  The clearest example in the Bible is that of King Hezekiah.  His father, Ahaz was a wicked king.  Many of the kings before him similarly turned the people astray.  But along came Hezekiah and restored the piety of the Jewish people.  No doubt, the prayers and tears of David and Solomon rained down upon him as he changed the direction of the kingdom. 

You might be tempted to be dismissive of people who have left the holy path of their parents.  But you never know how their children will turn out.  If you make them feel unwelcome and unloved, you’re decreasing the likelihood of their kids ever embracing our heritage.  When you show them warmth and let them know that there’s always a place for them in our shuls and schools, you never know what incredible consequences you might be engendering.

Or maybe it’s your own children who are not following in your footsteps of tradition.  Don’t despair!  Keep on loving them unconditionally.  You never know what will happen with their children – your grandchildren.  My friend, Reb Avi Bitterman, grew up traditional, but not religious.  His mother had come from an observant, Moroccan family.  One day, his grandmother was sitting and bemoaning the fact that only one of her thirteen children had remained religious.  Fourteen years old at the time, Avi gave his grandma a hug and said, “Savta, don’t worry, one day I’ll become religious.”   He didn’t know what he was saying at the time, but those words stuck with him.  Today, Avi Bitterman is a devout Jew.

We all strive to stay on track with our Judaism, but some of us veer off more than others.  Never despair of them!  Even if they don’t make it back on track, you never know what will happen with their children.  May you merit embracing all Jews, no matter where they are at in their level of commitment and observance and may we merit living to see their children thrive in their spiritually!

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