8 Tishrei 5781 / Saturday, September 26, 2020 | Torah Reading: Ha'azinu
 
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They danced with a surge of energy that they had not felt before. If a Jewish child exists in this world, then he can be taught the Torah, and the chain of...

 



I was privileged to spend last Shabbat within walking distance of the Kotel. Friday night, right after lighting the Shabbat candles, our family walked through Yaffo gate and the Jewish Quarter to pray Kabbalat Shabbat and maariv at the Wall.
 
I always get teary eyed when I see many Jews together, especially when those many Jews are united in the service of God. Kabbalat Shabbat at the Kotel is indescribable. The entire area in front of the wall is crowded with Jews of all stripe -- singing; dancing; swaying -- each one a separate unit, and yet, on a very real, tangible level, unified into a symphonic harmony of prayer.
 
A large group of soldiers were praying together. With their distinctive green berets and blue scarves they stood out among the undulating circles of black and white. At the conclusion of the service, they danced – twirling, jumping – as they sang, "Am Yisrael Chai," "The Jewish nation has survived!" Arms around each other, eyes closed, they rejoiced in the miracle of our nation's survival. Several of the soldiers picked up small children and held them tightly in their arms, as one might hold a sefer Torah, and continued dancing.
 
Watching them, I was reminded of a story I had recently read about the first Simchat Torah following the War. A group of survivors gathered in the remnants of a synagogue to pray. Now that they had survived the horrors of the Holocaust, they were beginning to realize how much they had lost. Bereft of their loved ones, without their wives, children and parents, they joined together as a community to make an attempt at celebrating the holiday. But they did not have a single Torah scroll to dance with! They felt hopeless; the future seemed bleak and barren. They could not imagine that their generation would plant the seeds and nurture the beginnings of what can only be described as a miraculous rebirth of Torah-true Judaism.
 
Just as they were getting ready to begin the hakafos, circling the bima with the Torah scrolls, a couple walked into the shul carrying a small child; a small child who had somehow managed to outwit the Nazis and survive! It had been years since the men and women in that shul had last seen a Jewish child. All of them had painfully raw memories of being brutally torn away from their loved ones – from their children/brothers/sisters/nieces/nephews. For them, a small child was nothing less than a miracle, a miracle that symbolized hope for the future, the potential for rebirth.
 
The broken group of survivors excitedly gathered around the youngster. They couldn't believe their eyes. Here was a living embodiment of their dreams for the future.
 
One of the men asked the parents if, for lack of a Sefer Torah, they could dance with the child instead. With incredible tenderness the men took turns holding the youngster in their arms. They danced with a surge of energy that they had not felt before. If a Jewish child exists in this world, then he can be taught the Torah, and the chain of tradition will continue. To those men and women, the survival of this Jewish child was a guarantee of our people's existence!  
 
The world has changed tremendously in the last sixty years. Children, which were once cherished as the greatest pleasure in the world, are often looked upon as a financial burden, limiting one's opportunity for the modern-day idol of "self realization" and "self growth."
 
Children are our greatest treasure, and our greatest pleasure. But as with anything of value, children demand something of us – and at times, our immediate desires must be put to the side to nurture and create a future, both for ourselves and for our people (which is real "self growth" and "self realization," but that is not the focus of this article).
 
Potential for Greatness
 
A man once came crying to Rebbe Nachman that his daughter, an only child, had disappeared. The man searched everywhere and was beside himself.
 
"The young woman is in the home of the village priest. She wants to convert," Rebbe Nachman told him. "Quickly, hire a coach and send two men to get her."
 
The man followed the Rebbe's instructions and brought the man's daughter home. This young woman later married and was blessed with children who became distinguished rabbis and leaders in their communities (Kokhavey Or page 52#26). 
 
Hashem granted us – every single one of us – the strength and ability to make changes and grow. We are capable of stretching ourselves, broadening our limitation and accepting challenge. Raising a family certainly stretches a person in every possible way – emotionally, intellectually and, of course, financially – yet, in being willing to give in such a deep, all encompassing way, we are insuring both our future and the future of the Jewish people. A person has the ability to stretch himself to such a degree that he can turn his life around, and go from the brink of leaving his religion to being blessed with "children who became distinguished rabbis and leaders in their communities."
 
The Rebbe said, "Even Moshiach's parents won't be so ay, ay, ay…" as if to say even they won't be such outstanding people (Siach Sarfei Kodesh 1-83)
 
Yes, everyone, including parents, have imperfections (whew! That gives us all hope J). Not all mothers and fathers are "ay, ay, ay." Yet, in giving the gift of life, they are providing pure, precious souls with the opportunity to enter this world and complete themselves. Every child has the potential for greatness. We do not know which child has the potential to blossom into the Moshiach. All we can do is provide the gift of life.
 
Our Responsibility
 
Rebbe Nachman once remarked that hearing stories of tzaddikim at home as a child made an indelible impression upon him (Sichos HaRan 138).
 
Children emulate those whom they most admire – their parents. As parents, it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to assure that our children will actualize their potential, intellectually, emotionally and, of course, spiritually. Through creating a home permeated with Jewish values, a home where children hear stories of tzaddikim rather than stories of Mickey Mouse, we are creating the future of the Jewish people.
 
The survivors, who miraculously started anew, to create a new generation, are waiting for us to continue building the future. Let us rise to the call and build strong homes, homes of Torah and emuna, homes that will create a generation that will live in the light of the Moshiach.  




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