Rabbi Yaacov Haber's
for the Week
There were at least two million Jews traveling together
with Moshe in the desert. Amongst them were relatives of Moshe, Kohanim and elders. Yet
almost from nowhere rose a protégé to Moshe called Yehoshua. Yehoshua was at Moshes'
side at all times. He led Moshe's war against Amalek, he never left Moshes' tent, and he
listened in on the most important conversations in history, the conversations between
Moshe and G-d.
What set Yehoshua apart from all the rest of the Jewish people? He wasn't family, he
wasn't royalty, and he wasn't aristocracy. The answer is in the verse, " Yehoshua bin
Nun, the child, never left Moshes tent." The child! At the time of this episode
Yehoshua was 57 years old, yet the Torah refers to him as a child!
The difference between a child and an adult is that a child has his whole life before him.
He has to become something, he has to grow, he has to accomplish and he has to reach a
goal. A child may trip but he jumps right up and tries again. A child is open to new ideas
and is willing to consider almost anything.
When childhood is over we feel completed and accomplished. At 57 years old we are usually
just getting over our mid-life crisis; that last shot at fulfilling our dreams. After
that, we are what we are. We become stuck. If you're stuck - you can not be a leader
of the Jewish people. If you're stuck - you can not be a Prophet. If you're stuck - you
can not be a Torah scholar. When a person stops growing the main purpose of life has
When Jeremiah wanted to explain why he was privileged to hear the word of Hashem he
explained, "ki naar anochi" (Jeremiah 1;6) "because I am only a child"
Even though he was in the twilight of his life. When Hosea wanted to explain why G-d has a
special affinity toward the Jewish people he explained "Ki Naar Yisroel
Veahevehu." The Jewish people stayed young.
Yehoshua was 57 years old but he was a child. He was open to new ideas and his mind was
fresh. He had the benefit of years but was not weighed down by them. He wasn't stuck! He
wasn't set in his ways to such an extent that from all of Israel he qualified to be the
great Moshe Rabeinu's successor.
A few years ago I had the great opportunity to meet and
seek advice from the Ponevez Rosh Yeshiva HaRav Shach Shlita in Bnei Brak. At the time he
was about 100 years old. In order to advise me better he asked me manyquestions. He
wanted to know where I had learned, where I had lived, what techniques I use in outreach,
where my children go to school and much more. He then asked me what sefer I have in my
hand. (I had brought a sefer to read in the Taxi from Jerusalem to Bnei Brak). I told him
it was a Tzidkas HaTzadik, the primary text of Rav Tzadok HaKohein. The Rav told me he was
personally unfamiliar with the writings of Rav Tzadok and asked me to share something with
him. At that point I excitedly began telling Rav Shach an interpretation of Rav Tzadok on
the fifth page of tractate Brachos. Two minutes into my Dvar Torah the elder of the
generation took my hand and looked at me with his very aged and saintly eyes and told me
to stop. With tears in his eyes he commented that what he was hearing was different from
what he had been learning for the last 90 years. He just didn't have the strength
for anything new anymore.
This was a powerful experience. He didn't cry over his
dimming eyesight and frail health but rather because he didn't have the strength at 100 to
do something new.
We always talk about what we have to give to our youth.
Let's discuss, for a change, what we can learn from them.
Within the framework of the Rambam's 13 Principles of Faith we must always be willing to
expand. Open a book that you don't usually open. Go to a shiur that you don't usually go
to. Stay current with Yiddishkeit. As a people we are always growing and always expanding.
Without new ideas there would be no Bais Yaakov, there would be no Chasidim, children
wouldn't sing Anim Zmiros and there would be no Artscroll.
We can always object to change but the objection should never be that we didn't do it that
King Solomon said, "Educate a child when he is young and even when he becomes old it
will not leave him." Reb Yisroel Salanter explained this to mean that even as
the child ages he will forever continue to educate himself.
I'm certain that if we keep the future before us, Hashem will fill that future with life,
wisdom and spirituality.
Rabbi Yaacov Haber
Rabbi Haber is the OU's National Director of Jewish Education and
the spiritual leader of the OU's Pardes Program
questions are very welcome
"A tree of life for those who embrace it"
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