Tora Thoughts: Parashat Chukat 5778
Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky
From Generation to generation
This week we read parashat Korach. It is interesting to notice that in this parasha Miriam and Aaron die. In addition, Moses is sentenced to die before entering the Land of Israel. As the Chumash Etz Hayim points out, this is certainly an indication that a transition of generations is taking place.
The three siblings, Moses, Aaron and Miriam, had been the great leaders of the People Israel since the time of the exodus from Egypt. They represent the generation of the desert, the generation that was born in Egypt as slaves and left the country to start a new life as a free people. Now the younger generation must take the post and start a new chapter in the life of the people of Israel, in the land of Israel.
As we all know, generational transitions are never easy. Challenges of all kinds appear for the new generation. Will the young leaders be able to follow their parents’ path? Will they be able to honor their inheritance? Will they be able to make it without their teachers? How should they avoid their parent’s mistakes, if there were mistakes made? It is always hard for the new generation to replace the old one. And in the particular case of the Children of Israel in the desert, it was extremely hard to take the place of such strong leaders as Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
Thousands of years after the new leadership took over in the desert, here we are, Jewish brothers and sisters, the descendants of those generations. All over the world (including the State of Israel, which today is stronger than ever) we live a rich Jewish culture that has been renewed and that has flourished during the last decades. It has not been easy, and multiple challenges still appear in our horizon. However, the fact that we are all part of the living Jewish people shows clearly that the transition from the generation of the desert was successful. And the same thing with the transition of all the generations that took place in the long history of the Jewish people!
After more than three thousand years of Jewish history, we can affirm that we are good at transitioning generations, or at least that we are very experienced in doing that! We have learned that in order to survive, the Jewish people in every generation has to educate the next generation and prepare it for taking the post. A Jewish generation is not only judged by what it accomplished, but also by how the following generation performed. There is no future for Judaism if our children are not ready to proudly develop their own Jewish life and prepare for the day when they must leave the leadership in the hands of their own children.
This is the most basic secret of Jewish survival, passing the fire of the Torah to the following generation. If we fail to do it, then the fire is extinguished. We are the carriers of the Jewish torch right now, and it is our biggest responsibility to pass it on with love and care.
That is why it is so important that we try our best in attracting young families and involve them in our synagogue’s life. We need to put a special effort toward inviting and welcoming young families, to strengthening our Religious School, and developing programs that are relevant for them. Even with all the many challenges that American Jewish congregations face in our days, especially in the suburban areas of the country, we can never lose our focus and neglect our responsibility as Jews. We are responsible for transmitting our Jewish heritage to the next generation.
As we remember this week how the Children of Israel had to replace the great leaders, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, we also remember how our ancestors were able to successfully pass their Jewish pride and identity to their children. It is also our own responsibility, and at Temple Beth El we take it seriously!