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Sunday, 20 September 2015

G-d desires human sacrifice

Daf Yomi Nazir 27

I was once visiting with an elderly Jewish man when he showed me the family pictures on his wall.
“These were my paternal grandparents.  They made aliya on their own from Russia at the turn of the century and went to drain the swamps and plough the fields in the Land of Israel.  They left their families behind to return to Zion!” he told me proudly.

“And on this side here,” he continued, “are my maternal grandparents.  “They came to America and worked in the sweatshops on the Lower East Side.  But they refused to work on Shabbos.  So every week they would get fired for not showing up on Saturday and had to find themselves a new job on Sunday morning!  Can you believe the sacrifices my grandparents made, back in the day?”

Mishnah: If a man and his father were both nazirs and his father separated undesignated funds to purchase the offerings upon completion of the term but then died, the son may use those funds for his offerings.
The Torah declares, “If an individual from among the people shall sin unintentionally by committing one of the commandments of G-d that shall not be done and he becomes guilty; if his sin that he has committed becomes known to him, he shall bring as his sacrifice an unblemished she-goat for the sin he has committed.”
The Beraisa states: “His sacrifice” teaches that one only fulfills one’s obligation with his own sacrifice, and not that of his father (as opposed to the case of the Mishna where the funds were not yet designated for a particular animal).

Your parents and grandparents made sacrifices for Heaven and the Jewish people.  That merit accrues for all generations and certainly you are who you are today due to their sacrifices.  But the Almighty wants you to make personal sacrifices for Him.  You are here on earth to fulfil your personal mission.

Each generation has its own challenges and sacrifices that need to be made.   Your grandparents’ sacrifice may have been making the desert bloom in Israel or bringing unadulterated Judaism to America.  Your call to sacrifice is entirely different.  When it’s not as clear and apparent, it can be even more challenging, but one day your children and grandchildren will proudly point to the sacrifices you made for Heaven.

Perhaps the sacrifice of the early twenty-first century is sending your children to a Jewish day-school at twenty grand plus per kid.   Especially given G-d’s call to us to be fruitful!  That wasn’t the challenge a generation ago, but it is today. 

Maybe the challenge today is to dedicate time to Torah study.  Back in the shtetl, it was par for the course to begin your day with a couple of hours of learning and end your day similarly.  Today, with ever-increasing work and family demands, committing to fixed times for Torah study is no mean feat.  It means sacrificing whatever personal time you have remaining in the week.

Every generation has its own tests and challenges.  Stop riding on the coattails of your parents’ and grandparents’ sacrifices.  May you merit truly giving of yourself to Heaven and one day having your children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces point to their forebear on the wall who sacrificed himself for Heaven and the Jewish people!

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