By Yochanan Gordon
This past Sunday, we celebrated the siddur play of our eldest son, Nison, at Yeshiva Darchei Torah. We came out in strong representation to pay tribute to him and all the young students to celebrate a year of hard work and diligence. We had an opportunity to meet and personally thank the rebbeim who dedicate their heart and soul to instill a passion and love of Torah and Yiddishkeit, which serves as the foundation upon which our children will continue to develop their knowledge of Torah, love of Hashem, and establish lives as Torah-oriented Jews. At the close of the event, each child, over 150 of them, received his own personalized siddur, which they all will undoubtedly come to cherish in the years to come.
Sunday evening, as I was putting the kids to sleep, I engaged my son in conversation, bringing up again the siddur play and letting him know how we were so proud of his accomplishments and how essential it is for him to read daily from his new siddur in order to keep his skills sharp. I felt it was an opportune moment, with the inspiration still fresh, to instill within him the importance of review and how essential it is towards internalizing and becoming one with the material that he worked so hard to attain. I mentioned that the summer is coming and that it’s easy to let the time go by, enjoying camp and the free time which are all important, even necessary, but also an easy opportunity to let all that was achieved amidst great determination go to waste. He acknowledged the message, indicating that he understood. Then he went to bed.
Chinuch is an oft-addressed topic within our circles. It gave us and gives our children the tools to pass on the ideals of Torah to the next generation, perpetuating the unbroken chain of mesorah that began with Moshe Rabbeinu at Sinai. Despite the exorbitant cost of Jewish education, while our elected officials look to secure loopholes to subsidizing the rising costs of yeshiva tuition, still we indicate a willingness to continue sending our children to the best yeshivos knowing full well that it will ultimately contribute to molding a happy and wholesome future. What more could we ask for? But just as with everything else in life, while the tools may be acquired during our school years, the only way to assure that we continue in the prescribed path is if we acclimate ourselves to the path in our lives outside of the yeshiva’s walls.
Using contemporary lingo to drive home the point, the yeshiva walls are like an outlet through which our devices are charged, buying time until we require another charge in order to carry out our daily responsibilities independent from the adapter. The point of the charger is not to be constantly plugged in, rather to generate enough power to carry out our necessary functions. The flipside is that if we detach ourselves for too long from that source of power, we will ultimately lose the ability to do what we were put here to accomplish.
There is an enigmatic verse in Tehillim which states, “Lechu banim shimu li, yiras Hashem alamedchem.—Go my sons and I will teach you fear of Hashem.” Why does it say, “Go my sons” when it would have been more grammatically proper to state, “Come my sons and I will teach you fear of Hashem.” It may be an old vort, but it is profound and truthful. The verse is telling us that the yardstick of fear of Heaven is gauged well after we have left the walls of the beis hamedrash.
This same message is expressed before the summer by many a rebbe to their talmidim. In my days in yeshiva, we treated it as cliché. By the time we returned for the new school year, we had to begin anew, renewing our energy and enthusiasm before we reached the point where we left off prior to summer break.
Growing up, in addition to being an ardent sports fan, I played all sports, excelling particularly at baseball, football, and basketball. While my brothers will all deny it, I taught them how to play. However, in the last seven years since I’m married, as important as it may be to stay in shape, I haven’t found the time to hit the courts, despite repeatedly telling myself that it’s time to get back into it. With a new basketball hoop having recently been installed in my parents’ driveway, I found occasion to hit the courts, if for no other reason than to show up my brothers despite the age gap and rustiness.
The aching that I have experienced in my joints and the loss in stamina compared to what I had just a few years back are just the minor indications that I have been out of it for too long. It also conveys how important it is to adopt a daily regimen of anything that we deem important in life. The next time I finish a grueling match on the court and I begin to feel the soreness in my back and legs, it will serve as a reminder to pull out my son’s siddur and begin reading so that he doesn’t experience the same fatigue spiritually that I have come to feel physically. v