Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Sound of Silence

A little song which is one of my favourites from the 60’s written by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel in the wake of the assassination of John F Kennedy is; “The Sound of Silence”
I’m going to disappoint you by not singing the fabulous tune but Paul Simon explains the lyrics that describe what happens when there is a lack of communication.
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people maybe more
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb- the sound of silence
Wow what words; The sound of Silence- it’s like you’re talking away but nobody is actually listening to your words or you’re speaking but then again you’re not on the same wavelength or frequency, perhaps your words are not worth the bother.
You know sometimes as a Rabbi I feel these words are spot on.
Art Garfunkel said that the words of this song just wrote themselves- perhaps a sign of the frustration of those times.
One thing as a father, a parent and a teacher that I am concerned about and that is whether or not my children will follow in our footsteps. What do I mean by that? Not, whether or not my children will go into the ministry and become Rabbis like myself- after all being a Rabbi is no job for a Jewish boy.
My concern is whether or not my children will uphold and keep Judaism. I hope that they will be Shomer Shabbat, Shomer Torah umitzvot, keeping Kashrut and Taharat Hamishpacha, davening three times a day and taking time out to study Torah and connect up with Hashem. I hope that my children will be turned on to uphold Jewish values in the same way that I was at their age. And most of all I hope that my children will be mentschen- dealing with their fellow human beings in an honest and mentschliche way. I’m sure many of us want to see these ideals in our children and grandchildren.
But there is never a guarantee. At the end of the day my children have Bechirah Chofshit- freedom to choose. The Talmud says that 40 days before a child is born it is decreed whether a person will be rich or poor etc... But it doesn’t say whether a person will be a Tzaddik or a Rasha- that, says the Talmud is in our own hands. We can as parents, as teachers, and as guides show them the way, lead them- but you can’t force them to drink.
An interesting book which has been published for the frum community is called “Off the Derech”- it speaks about the growing phenomena of children who have been brought up in families in the dati/chareidi world but make a decision to move away from their world. They have gone off the Derech – the path of their parents and educators. The book deals with these issues and how we can try to hold on to our children, and to ignite that love of Yiddishkeit and those values that we hold so dear.
In this week’s Sedra we start reading the fourth book of the Torah Bamidbar, which speaks about the census of the B’nei Yisrael. Now listen to this; the Torah after telling us the names of all the tribes and their numbers and where each of them would encamp in the desert, then the Torah tells us
Ve, elleh Toldot Aharon Umoshe
And these are the generations- (the offspring) of Moshe and Aharon.
Then the Torah tells us about the 4 sons of Aharon who were Nadav and Avihu, Elazar and Ithamar.
But surprisingly the Torah glaringly leaves out an important piece of information; The Torah says these are the generations of Moshe and Aharon but doesn’t tell us about the offspring of Moshe Rabbeinu.
Rashi picks up on this and says that the Torah calls the children of Aharon also as the children of Moshe to imply, as the Talmud in Sanhedrin says:
“Melamed shekol hamelamed ben chaveiro Torah maaleh alav hakatuv keilu yoldo”
It comes to teach us that whosoever teaches someone else’s children Torah it is as if he had begotten them.
In other words Moshe, being the leader and teacher par excellence of all B’nai Yisrael it’s as if he has become their spiritual father. Their father Aharon having brought them into this world and Moshe Rabbeinu having taught them Torah, giving them spiritual nourishment, and bringing them into the next world. A profound and powerful message about the influence and power of teaching somebody Torah.
But let’s be honest. Rashi based on the Talmud has asked a question. Why does the Torah mention the B’nai Aharon over here as being the offspring of Moshe?- But what Rashi doesn’t really ask or attempt to answer is why it doesn’t mention the children of Moshe Rabbeinu – Gershom and Eliezar at this time?
Indeed in the Torah they get very little press
It’s the sound of silence.
It’s not what is written- it’s about what’s left out.
We are never told about what happened to the children of Moshe. Let’s face it, what does it say in the Torah- Lo Kam Beyisrael kemoshe od navi- that no prophet will arise in Israel like Moshe. He was the one that took them out of Egypt, he was the one who came down the mountain to give them the Torah, but his own children we know very little about.
I am a Cohen- I am a descendant of Aharon Hakohen. It’s clear what happened to the children of Aharon Hacohen. But when it comes to Moshe’s children we can only speculate.
Could it be that the very children of Moshe Rabbeinu went off the Derech? They saw a father who was so busy occupying himself with the multifarious duties for and on behalf of the Children of Israel, that his own children got left behind?
The Sifrei hints at this in a comment from Sidra Yitro where it says that Moshe came down the mountain to B’nei Yisrael, but, says the Sifre it doesn’t say that he went to his family.
Or when he went to meet his father in law Yitro and his wife Tzipporah and the Torah says Ve-et Shnei Baneha- her two children. A comment by the commentators; but were they not also his two children?
Perhaps he was so immersed in his job as leader of kelal Yisrael he just didn’t have the time to invest in his own children?
Who knows?
Shabbat Shalom

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