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Home » Bo, Miscellaneous, The Rebbe

Bo: The Secret of our Continuity

Submitted by on January 17, 2010 – 2:21 amNo Comment | 1,317 views

The Silver Lining

We had spent the afternoon ensconced in our warm home hardly aware of the wintery conditions outdoors. As Shabbat ended we ventured outside and encountered a heavy snowfall. I groaned inwardly envisioning slush filled roads and back breaking shoveling, but was taken aback when a woman behind me took in the snowfall and exclaimed, “Ah, beautiful.” She was not alone. Right behind her another woman took in the pastoral scene and said the very same thing.

“Canadians,” I thought ruefully, shaking my head. I reentered the home to tell my wife about the absurd reaction to the blistery conditions, but first I had to show her how bad the snowfall was. I led her to the front window.

My Canadian wife took in the winter wonderland and quietly breathed, “Ah, Beautiful.” Needless to say, I was rendered speechless. . .

My friends often wonder why I left sunny California for wintery Canada and I usually explain that there is more to life than weather. California is bright and cheery, but cheer comes easily when the mornings are bright and the sunshine is warm. Finding bliss in blistery conditions and beauty in falling snow is truly a feat. The hearty Canadian finds the silver lining and that makes life worth living.

Diamonds In Rags

Finding the silver lining is not easy – especially when the subject is Jewish continuity. There are those who worry about the survival of our people when so many are lost to assimilation, apathy and intermarriage. Many contemporary Jews have abandoned the strictures of our tradition; they don’t keep kosher, they are skeptical about faith and view intermarriage favorably. Religious doctrine and spiritual passion leaves them cold; synagogue worship and ritual observance is not part of their life. Faced with ignorance and apathy, the prophets of doom do not expect Judaism to survive.

My mentor, the Lubavitcher Rebbe OBM, taught me differently. A diamond might be covered in rags, but beneath the rags lays the diamond in full glory. Our religious affiliations and spiritual devotions might be in tatters, but that does not dim the spark that pulses within. Every Jew is a diamond; every Jew is connected to G-d. the secret of our continuity - innerstreamThe proof is self evident: Reject the Jewishness of such Jews and they are incensed. Who are you, they rightly demand, to deny my Jewishness? I express my Judaism differently from you, but I am just as Jewish as you are.

These Jews are our backbone. Their affiliation with G-d is greater than mine. It is not rooted in religion, ritual, ideology or doctrine. It is a direct and inalienable bond between a father and a son; neither is able or willing to be severed from the other. These Jews are the secret of our continuity.

Who Is Your Father

The Talmud (Shabbat 89b) speaks of an interesting dialogue between G-d and the Jews that occurs when we reject the path of our fathers. G-d encourages us to accept teaching from Abraham, but we refuse saying, Abraham was informed that we would suffer in Egypt and he never prayed that the decree be rescinded. G-d encourages us to take inspiration from Isaac and we refuse again, saying, Isaac blessed Esau with the power to rule over Jacob; we cannot treat him like a father. Finally, G-d encourages us to learn from Jacob and we object once more, saying, Jacob calmly went to Egypt knowing his children would be enslaved and he never prayed on their behalf.

Indeed, the Jews that were liberated from Egypt had strayed from the path of their forefathers. Resentful of the patriarchs’ failure to intercede on their behalf, they grew estranged from them. Wallowing in their own misery, they abandoned the Torah. They were like children, who resent their parents for not granting their wish. The child cannot imagine that the parent has their best interest at heart and slowly grows estranged.

The Talmud goes on to say that G-d asks the Jews, who then is your father? And they reply – It is you!

Despite our rejection of our parents we cannot excise them from our hearts. We might stray far, we might reject them and abandon their ways, but we cannot cease being their child. When asked, who your father is, the child unerringly replies, it is you.

This Talmudic anecdote reads as a contemporary account of our generation. Many Jews today are estranged from Abraham. They are more closely affiliated with Socrates, Plato and Galileo than with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They do not tread the path or observe the rituals of yesteryear; they have carved out a new way of Jewish life. It includes dedication to Zionism and the plight of Jews across the world. It includes a strong sympathy for Tikun Olam and a powerful inclination toward charity. It is a sliver of Abraham’s oath, but it is not the path of Abraham.

Yet, their hearts and souls are absolutely Jewish. If you ask them to identify their father, or the focal point of their existence, they will unerringly point to G-d. Take that away from them and they will rebel. I don’t conform to His ways, but I know He loves me. I do things my own way, but I know He understands me. I know it because he is my father. This is the secret of our continuity.

The story is told of a child on the beach, jumping and hollering to attract the attention of the ship’s captain. The ship was moored several hundred yards out to sea and the captain did not notice. A passerby advised the child to stop trying, seeing as it was unlikely that the captain would notice him from afar. The captain will certainly hear my cry, replied the child. You see, the captain is my father.

We Will Survive

Yes there are naysayers, who see no future for the Jewish people. They cast their gaze upon the storm of assimilation and see Jews that have abandoned their tradition and whose observance of ritual is in tatters. They cringe and groan and predict our downfall.

The Rebbe taught me to look at the diamonds within rather than the rags that enfold them. I look upon assimilation and am encouraged. I see Jews that have abandoned their tradition, but who hold firmly to G-d. I see Jews that have adopted new identities, but whose hearts are loyal to their father.

With such Jews I am confident of survival. Our people, our nation, our ideology and our future need not be concerned. We are engulfed by a wave, but we will not drown in the storm, for the storm clouds contain a perfect silver lining. IT contains the little face that we know the secret of our continuity.

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