From Where I Stand
By Rabbi Yossy Goldman
“And these are the generations of Yitzchak, son of Avraham.”
The subject matter of this week’s parashah is indeed rather dramatic, and its significance goes to the heart of Jewish continuity.
“These are the generations of Yitzchak, son of Avraham,” begins the reading. We learn of the birth of Yaakov and Eisav, how they go their different ways, and how, rather circuitously, Yitzchak bestows the all-important blessings on Yaakov. The commentaries explain that this was not merely a blessing but the symbolic handing over of the Jewish legacy to the next generation. Yitzchak was passing the baton of destiny on to Yaakov. (Can you imagine if Eisav had received those critical blessings and had become one of our founding fathers?)
Long ago, the Talmudic sage Rabbi Chanina said that he had learned much from his teachers, more from his colleagues, but the most from his pupils. I can go along with that. Some time back, a man for whom I had great respect came to see me to discuss certain issues he wanted his rabbi to clarify. This was a gentleman who had reached the apex of his profession, a highly intelligent and sensitive human being—and among other things, he said he had a confession to make. Now we rabbis have no experience at taking confessions—we refer people directly to G‑d for that sort of thing. But this man voluntarily wanted to share his most personal disappointment in life with me, and I was profoundly flattered to have been found deserving of his trust.
This was his story. He came home from the wedding of his eldest daughter and, inexplicably, found himself crying. His wife said, “Why are you crying? You should be bubbling with joy.” He answered, “I’m crying because I have just given away a daughter I don’t know to a man I don’t know.” It had suddenly struck him with the force of a ton of bricks that he’d spent years and years building up his business, but he had neglected his family. And suddenly the daughter he didn’t really know was leaving the family home forever.
Thank G‑d, he resolved to rectify the situation and went on to succeed most admirably. But his story made a deep impression on me.
It is not only from a family point of view, but also from a Jewish faith perspective that we need to know our children well. We tend to mistakenly assume that whatever positive feelings of faith, morals, and Yiddishkeit we imbibed as children from our parents will somehow automatically be transmitted to our own children. Wrong! It does not happen genetically. It takes lots of hard work and years of intimate, personal guidance by dedicated parents.
It’s a new generation, folks. The influences on our kids’ lives today are dramatic, powerful, and not always pleasant. Internet, computer games, the digital age, and even cell phones are making our children more sophisticated and grown-up at increasingly younger ages. If once upon a time young people were spared the test of assimilation by staying in a secure social circle, today one can get chatted up by anyone in the whole wide world right in the family study.
Tragically, children from the finest homes have gone terribly astray. If we don’t transmit a healthy value system to the next generation, the vacuum will very likely be filled with other willing teachers, many of whom we may not approve of.
The good news is that our kids actually do want our guidance. As autonomous as they may appear, they actually crave direction in life. And at the end of the day, what they learn at home will make a far more lasting impression than what they pick up at school or, dare I say, even at shul.
Let my friend’s story serve notice. Don’t wait until after the wedding. Jewish continuity and future generations depend on it. G‑d bless you with success and lots of Yiddishe nachas. v
Rabbi Yossy Goldman was born in Brooklyn and was sent in 1976 by the Lubavitcher Rebbe as an emissary to serve the Jewish community of Johannesburg, South Africa. He is Senior Rabbi of the Sydenham Shul and president of the South African Rabbinical Association. His sefer “From Where I Stand: Life Messages from the Weekly Torah Reading” was published by Ktav and is available at Jewish book shops or online at www.ktav.com.