By: Rabbi Osher Jungreis
At the beginning of the parsha, we are told that one of HaShem`s goals in the exodus from Egypt was to insure that we tell that story to our progeny: “And so that you may relate it in the ears of your sons and your son`s sons what I have wrought upon Egypt, and My signs which I have placed among them that you may know that I am the L-rd” (Exodus 10:2).
After reading this passage, the obvious question that comes to mind is, if we are commanded to teach our children, then it is they who will know, but the text reads that you, the teller of the story may know. Furthermore, the order appears to be in reverse–should one not have knowledge before teaching? The Torah is revealing to us a profound truth regarding human nature. The best way to acquire understanding is by accepting the responsibility of instructing others, for that experience compels us to study and seek insights.
Thus, it is not unusual for a man or a woman who never gave too much thought to their Judaism to undergo a total transformation once they become parents. They realize that if they are conveying something of lasting value, and if they are to tell “the story” to their children, they must first and foremost possess that knowledge. This logic holds true, not only vis a vis children, but every time we are challenged to explain ourselves as Jews, we are prompted to explore our roots.
The text also shows us how we might best impart this lesson: “Speak unto the ears of your children”–meaning, the teaching has to be personalized and intimate. The study of Torah cannot be just a cerebral experience, but it must be an emotional and spiritual one as well. It must be transmitted from heart to heart with love and passion. It is this that enabled Joseph to retain his faith as a lone Jew in Egypt. Despite his suffering, he never faltered, for engraved upon his heart and mind was the image of his father`s teaching.
From this passage, our sages also conclude that if there are three generations (sons and sons` sons) in one family who are committed to the study of Torah, we may be assured that the Torah and the mitzvos will never depart from that family. The litmus test of Jewish continuity is whether Judaism continues into the third generation. In our contemporary society, in which demographics demonstrate that we are rapidly losing our numbers to assimilation and intermarriage, this question weighs heavily upon us: “Will our grandchildren remain Jews?”
Tragically, ours is a generation that has become spiritually orphaned and most of us do not have zeides who can tell the story, so we must seek out our rabbis and Torah teachers and ask them to “relate the story in our ears”. And that is the goal that we at Hineni have set for ourselves in teaching Torah. When you come to Hineni, it`s not just knowledge that you acquire, but a total personal Jewish experience. Make it your priority to study Torah and then, tell the story in someone`s ear and re-invigorate yourself Jewishly.
We have survived the centuries because this commandment to tell the story to our children and our children`s children, is at the heart of our faith. No matter where destiny may have taken us, we continued to relate that tale and shall continue to do so until the end of time.
THE GIFT OF TIME
In this week’s parsha, we find the first mitzva that G-d gave us as a nation. This month shall be for you the beginning of months…(Exodus, 12:2). With that proclamation, HaShem endowed us with the greatest of all gifts–time. In bondage in Egypt, our time did not belong to us. Our days meshed one into the other. Every day was painfully and monotonously the same. In the life of a slave there is no hope, there is no creativity; there is no future. But free men have choices to make and the most important choice is to use time wisely and not squander it away.
This commandment is especially pertinent to us in the twenty-first century. While technology and modern scientific inventions have freed us from much drudgery and hard labor, and we have more time at our disposal than our forefathers ever dreamt possible, we have also unfortunately come to abuse that time and fritter it away on pointless, meaningless pursuits. Our technology has actually created inane programs that serve only to kill time. However, when G-d spoke to us and entrusted to us that great gift of time, He demanded more from us than just using time expeditiously. He charged us with the command of sanctifying time and making it holy. We do this through Kiddush HaChodesh–sanctifying the New Month.
In contrast to the solar calendar used by the rest of the world, ours is a lunar calendar and there is a profound teaching to be found therein. In contrast to the sun, the moon does not generate its own light, but reflects the sun’s rays. Similarly, we, the Jewish people do not put forth our own light, but reflect the light of G-d, meaning that we do not act in accordance with our will or desire, but rather, our mission is to fulfill the Will of G-d, and even as the moon illuminates the night, our task is to illuminate the darkness of the world with our Torah.
Another reason why we have a lunar calendar is that the moon waxes and wanes every month, and even as the moon renews and regenerates itself, so we too have a mandate to rejuvenate and revitalize ourselves through tshuva. This mitzva of establishing the calendar, of sanctifying the new month, was chosen by G-d to be the very first of our 613 commandments, for it is the very first lesson that HaShem wanted us to absorb.
Freedom from Egyptian bondage does not mean that we are free from responsibility. It does not mean that we can do with our time that which we wish. On the contrary, when G-d charged us with this mitzva of time, He entrusted us with the greatest of all responsibilities–to sanctify time–to utilize every moment prudently for its holy name’s sake.
As Jews, we must be ever cognizant that our life here is temporary and that we must make the most of every moment, for the time will come when G-d will ask us to give an accounting for every day of our lives. So let us sanctify our time here on earth through our holidays, through our Sabbaths, through our Torah studies, through our prayers and through our acts of kindness.