Linking the Generations - Friday, September 14th 2018
Responsibility and Freedom, That’s the Deal!
In this week’s Parashah, we are presented with the very memorable moment of Moses telling the Israelites, that he will not be going with them into the promised land. In our teachings, we learn of some of the concrete reasons for what is generally seen as a "punishment” for Moses. Was Moses too brazen with God? Was he too angry and possibly not as faithful in God’s support when he struck the rock that was to trigger nourishment for the wandering tribes of Jacob? This is all very possibly the "reason” Moses did not go forward with his people.
When I put this question to our 4th and 5th Grade students this week, their responses were enlightening. I asked if something that seemed so catastrophic - losing the teacher of all teachers, the leader who had seen then through so much - could something that seemed so bad have been for any other reasons? Are there any positives to such a new situation for our ancestors?
Some students mentioned age. "Moses was very old.” They said. "Maybe they could use some new leadership.”
Others said that well, maybe they needed to go it alone. Maybe they wouldn’t be able to grow as much with the same leader they had had for so long.
Their insights were amazing, and I told them, actually in line with many commentators who believe this may have been part of a necessary plan for the children of Isaac and Jacob. Independence would definitely have forced them to grow in new ways.
I also related their responses to the previous Parashot. Moses had just been retelling his people about all the laws handed down by God. He was now telling them that they were the ones who had to continue on without him. They had to really take these laws to heart, believe in them, and teach them to their children. He was not going be around anymore to keep reminding them. They had to do that for themselves now.
One student also reminded us that the last time Moses was separated from the Israelites, things did not go so well in that regard. They did forget, the did lose faith and the did turn away from God. So in many ways, if this was God’s plan, this was taking a big risk. Or was it the ultimate test of faith - seeing what would happen if their faithful leader was really not coming back?
I also related this conversation to what we ask of all of our students at Shlenker. We teach them so they can do. Yes we are often there to remind them of what they need to do. But not always. And not when they go home – or when they "Walkest by the way” as it says in the V’ahavtah.
Much like the Israelites now had an independence that would be their greatest test, our students have that same independence – and what they do with it is the test of their commitment to our values, our principles and all the mitzvoth we ask them to follow.