The Future Is Now

Dear Parents,

In describing the beams that were used in the construction of the Mishkan, the pasuk in this week’s Parsha says: ועשית את הקרשים למשכן עצי שטים עומדים.   And you shall make the beams for the Mishkan of acacia wood, standing erect. (Shemos 26:15).  Rashi points out that unlike all the other construction materials enumerated in the Torah, here the Pasuk uses the definitive form and says the beams” instead of “beams”.  Why is that?

…he was concerned that they should have the wood for the beams immediately availableRashi goes on to explain that the letter “Hey” in front of the word “beams” is a reference to specific ones. The beams used for the Mishkan came from acacia trees that Yaakov Avinu planted in Mitzrayim, hundreds of years earlier.  He commanded his sons to leave instructions for their descendants to take them along when they would finally be allowed to leave Mitzrayim. Yaakov had received a prophesy that the Jewish People would be commanded to build a Mishkan, and he was concerned that they should have the wood for the beams immediately available.

Aside from the lessons in Emunah that we can learn from these actions on the part of Yaakov Avinu and the Bnei Yisrael, we learn a different message from Yaakov Avinu’s forethought in planting the trees. Rabbi Shlomo Yonasan Harris, Shlita, based on the Sefer Be’er Yosef, points out that Yaakov was not merely concerned about the spiritual welfare of his children in the here and now.  The focus of this towering giant extended several generations into the future.  Yaakov Avinu considered it part of his responsibility to analyze the needs and act to directly support the spiritual welfare of his descendants.

Wouldn’t Yaakov have fulfilled his chinuch obligations by raising proper children, who would then make the right choices as adults?  Why does he get involved with such a specific circumstance and not leave it to his great-great grandchildren to figure it out for themselves?  We cannot plumb the depth of thought that characterized such an unfathomable great Gadol as Yaakov Avinu.  We can, however, use his example to help us understand our own roles and responsibilities as parents.

…what will happen to them when new pitfalls … arise in 5, 10 or 20 years?We rightfully place our emphasis in child rearing on correcting, guiding and inspiring our children day by day and week by week.  We form an image of what we hope and dream our children should look like when they are age 21 and work towards helping our child achieve that image.  With Hashem’s help, we will be successful.  What is much harder yet, is to work towards being mechanech our child to thrive in a world that may be quite different from that of today.

There is a tongue-in-cheek critique of most airport security systems around the world that they are well prepared for the previous terrorist attack!  The systems in place mainly account for tactics already tried.  They lack the sophistication and ingenuity to think ahead and be prepared for the unexpected.  We need to think about whether our parenting `systems’ have that same shortcoming.

If we prepare our children to be only minimally educated and fortified to handle today’s trials and tribulations, what will happen to them when new pitfalls and even more pernicious influences arise in 5, 10 or 20 years?  When it comes to Yiddishkeit, we dare not suffice with raising children who are only prepared for last year’s challenges.  We have seen how technology has totally transformed the world in less than 20 years. A perfunctory involvement with Yiddishkeit could not withstand the tidal wave of anti-Torah messaging and is a frightening recipe for a total disconnect from Torah and Klal Yisrael, R’L.

They must always be yearning to grow higher and closer to Hashem…What do we need to do? What will give our children the tools for their future, to withstand new and unexpected temptations and difficulties? The spiritual development of the upcoming generation must be one that involves excitement, passion and simcha! Torah learning and Mitzvah observance cannot be superficial or merely something we do.  It needs to be our focus, and the object of intense longing.  Our children need to be learned, devoted and involved in mitzvah observance on an emotional level. They need to be ready to contribute and even sacrifice for their Torah and have an iron-clad commitment to live a life of Torah no matter what a brave new world may throw at them. They must always be yearning to grow higher and closer to Hashem, preferably with us alongside them.

With our feet firmly planted in the here and now, but our heads always cognizant of an unknowable future, we will truly fulfill our role as powerful links in the chain of the destiny of Torah and the Jewish People.  May Hashem bless all our efforts and protect His people now and in the future.

Best wishes for a wonderful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kalman Baumann

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