Ensuring Jewish Life into the Future
We are all familiar with the practice that after we read the verse שמע ישראל we immediately say ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד before reciting the rest of the שמע. Where did this practice come from? This intervening statement is not found any where in the Torah. The answer comes from this week’s Torah portion, ויחי, Vayechi.
Toward the end of the parsha, the Torah relates that Yaakov sensed that he was soon to die. He gathered his 12 sons in order to bless each one and to tell them “the end of days,” when the Messiah will come. At this point, the Talmud, Pesachim, 56a, picks up the account and fills in the missing part of the story.
“The Divine Presence departed from him and he was unable to do so. Yaakov thought perhaps there is a disqualifying child amongst my sons as was the case with Avraham and Isaac. Each had an unworthy son, Yishmael and Esau respectively. The sons responded to their father saying, “Listen Israel (Yaakov’s other name), Hashem is our God, Hashem is One.” They explained just as there is only One Deity in your heart, there is only One Deity in our heart.” At that moment Yaakov exclaimed. “Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity.”
What caused Yaakov to be worried now? True he was soon to pass away but this should have been his concern long before this. Yaakov’s father Isaac didn’t express this concern before he died nor did Avraham. What was different in this case?
Yaakov and his family had emigrated to Egypt 17 years earlier. Yaakov had hesitated at Beersheba before going down to Egypt. He was afraid to go. There God promised, “I will go down with you to Egypt… and I will also bring you up.” (46:4) When Joseph’s brothers and father are introduced to Pharaoh, they say to him, “We have come to sojourn in the land…” (47:4). We read this verse in the Haggadah during the Pesach Seder. The Haggadah explains the term sojourn. “The family only intended to stay temporarily in Egypt, until the famine ended.” Then, they would return to Canaan. Well, the famine was long over by now, and Yaakov and his family were still in Egypt.
Avraham didn’t have to worry about the commitment Isaac had to the belief in One God. Isaac was constantly with Avraham and he could vigilantly monitor his actions and philosophy. So too with Yaakov once he returned home to his father Isaac after being with Laban for 20 years.
But Yaakov’s children were now entrenched in the Egyptian society. He is about to die, and they will be left in Egypt. Perhaps they had become corrupted during these 17 years by adopting the Egyptian philosophy of life and their way of living. When he heard their statement about God, he gave praise and thanks that they were still wholesome and pure in their belief in One God and steadfast in their commitment to Avraham’s way of life.
Living in America, we are faced with a similar worry and concern about the future of our children. Will they remain committed to our Jewish heritage, philosophy of life and practices. Sending our children to a Jewish day school is an important step in laying the foundation; but what will happen to them when they go off to
This past Wednesday, under the direction of Rabbi Adi Goodman, Posnack’s high school Director of Jewish Life, Mr. Mike Chanan, the high school’s Activities Director, and Mrs. Randi Marcus, the high school’s Director of College Guidance, Posnack Jewish Day School took an important step to ensure our graduates will not lose their connection to Judaism and their commitment to Israel when they go off to college. How did they do this? They invited to our campus representatives from Hillel chapters, Chabad Houses, and other Jewish life organizations found at colleges and universities throughout Florida and around the United States. 34 different organizations in all. Here our seniors and juniors could meet, speak and dialogue up front and personal with these Jewish life emissaries. It was a perfect opportunity for our students to learn that their rich and vibrant Jewish life can continue fully and unabated on the college campus.
After all, we have an obligation to our children, the future of our Jewish people. Before they even arrive on the college campus, we must introduce them to and show them that there are Jewish institutions awaiting them there. These organizations exist to support and enhance the Jewish values and way of life they received at home from their parents, grandparents, families and their K-12 teachers at Posnack. When our graduates, your children return from college and talk positively about their experiences with the Jewish life on their college campus, we can all loudly proclaim, !ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד
Rabbi Robert Kaplan