As we enter the new year of 2018, it is natural to look back and review what happened in 2017.
In fact, to a large extent, this has become bread and butter for the media.
On any news outlet you can find
- a 2017-year in review article or a top ten list, or
- multiple top ten lists.
- it is incredible to think about how our world has changed over the past year,
- Its incredible to think about the all the tensions that have boiled this year,
- Its incredible to think of the increased danger we face from terrorism as
- Isis has continued to wage war against the West.
- The Syrian refugees.
- The US Israel relationship.
To look back over the year is truly difficult to deal with.
- To think about how the society has changed.
- To think about the gains and the threats..
While its true the course of the world is changing, and that as a nation we are in a very different place then we were
to a large extent the story isn’t more about
- the individuals than the collective.
- The people and personalities more than the nations and societies.
- we can think about Syria as a country or we can think about Bashar al Assad.
- We can think about the Presidential race or
- we can think about Trump, Hillary and Bush. We can think about the US Israel relationship or we can think about Trump and Netanyahu.
The name of this weeks parsha is Shemos. Which means names.
And as a means of introducing the parsha and the book, the Torah riterates the names of the family of Yaakov.
Rueven Shimon, Levi etc.
The difference between the book of Bereishit and the Book of Shemot is
a transition from the Avot, the patriarchs to the Am, the nation.
In other words, the book of Berieshit, which deals primarily with Avrham Yitzchak and Yaakov is the story of the founding fathers of Judaism.
Its who they are what they believed what they stood for and how they made it their duty to form a nation.
The Book of Shmeos is very different.
This book is about the Nation of Israel. Its about the People who entered into a covenant with G-d through Torah as a People. It is about the nation, not the founding fathers.
This transition, which occurs in the opening moments of this weeks parsha, is made by recalling and numerating the Shemot, the names of the individuals who helped fashion this great nation.
And that out of these men with their diverse characteristic, varied strengths and qualities the Jewish people is born. And therefore the torah reminds us that while we are now about to learn about the nation of Israel, it is really at its heart about the people of Israel. That ultimately the story of the Jews is the sum total of the contributions of individual people.
There was a very prominent Rav by the name of RavNosson Tzvi Finkel, the great Builder of Torah in 20th century, a man who suffered with Parkinson’s disease,
and nevertheless ran the largest Yeshiva in the world.
- He has almost 10,000 students,
- delivered weekly high-level Talmud lectures and
- traveled the world raising tens of millions of dollars to maintain and grow the institution.
But it was well known that this person, who carried this incredible burden on his shaky shoulders, would always make time for any person that wanted to spend time with him and learn with him.
And he not only took time of his busy schedule to learn with a student but even asked the student what time was good for him.
Hearing this, R’Yosef’s 7 yr old son Eliyahu looked up to his father and announced that he wanted to learn with the Rosh Yeshiva too. Eliyahu had seen Rabbi Finkel in person once before and now wanted to learn with him.
R'Yosef felt that it wasn’t proper to ask the Rosh Yeshiva to learn with a 7 year old but the little boy was insistent.
Finally R'Yosef told his son that if he would write a letter he would deliver it to Rav Nosson Tzvi.
The next morning ELiyahu, the 7 years old boy awoke early and scrawled a letter to Rav Nosson TZvi before going to school.
" Lichvod HaRosh Yeshuva,
Ani Rotzeh Lilmod Chumash Vayeira im HaRish Yeshuva Todah ELiyahu, ben Kimat 7
Talmud Torah Torat Chayim Yerushalyimm. "
R Yosef brought the letter to the Rosh Yeshiva who write back on the letter and a few weeks later they learned chumash together.
Litte LEiyahu came with his father to the Rosh Yeshiva with his papers form school and the Rosh Yeshiva sat next to him and listened to him review the pesukim and translation that he has leaned.
The following sukkos, Eliyahu once again had the chance to learn with Rab Nosson TZv.
On his way out the Rosh Yeshiva waived goodbye to ELiyahu.
Little ELiyahuu will always remember his special, even short lived relationship with Rabbi Finkel the Rosh Yeshiva of the largest yeshiva in the world who made time to learn with anyone and everyone together with all his kollel students.
What Rabbi Finkel realized was that the Jewish people is made up of individuals.
- That the next link in the chain starts right here and right now.
- That one day G-d willing little Eliyahu can also grow up t be a great person in the Jewish people, and that each person as an individual must be invested in.
The foundation of the Jewish people is the names of the individuals with different strengths. They are what forms the nation of Israel. This is a very empowering concept.
So many of us, when we look around at the State of the Jewish world, the national community. The local community, see things that can be improved or we would want different.
The lesson of our parsha is
- that we are only as strong as the indivduals who are striving to make those differences.
at the end of the day,
at the end of the year, when we llook back upon all what was done, where we have been and where we are going, and when we review the articles,
we must realize that as much as we are talking about society or a country or a nation we are talking about people,
people who are setting the trajectory of the year, individuals who are making history.