Thursday, April 27, 2017

PARSHAS TAZRIA-METZORA 5777


“RABBI’S MUSINGS (& AMUSINGS)”
Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Tazria-Metzora (17th day of Omer)
2 Iyar 5777/ April 28, 2017 - Avos Perek 2

I feel blessed and privileged to have many wonderful rabbeim and mentors who have had a strong impact upon my life. I have learned from them not only how to learn Torah, but also how to live my life within the guidelines and blessed confines of a Torah lifestyle.
One of those rabbeim was my eleventh grade rebbe, Rabbi Aryeh Feuer. His meticulously designed shiurim, his ability to get lost in thought when asked a question, and the way he explained deep ideas, had a profound influence upon me.
Over the years, I have maintained a relationship with Rabbi Feuer. He was present at our chasuna in Lakewood, and was at the brisim of our sons.
Rabbi Feuer is a talmid of Yeshiva Chaim Berlin, and has a very close relationship with the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Aharon Schechter shlita. Throughout eleventh grade, whenever Rabbi Feuer quoted "my rebbe" it was understood that he was referring to Rav Aharon.
This week, I attended the chasuna of Rabbi Feuer’s daughter. Rav Aharon, who requires a wheelchair for mobility, was there. Despite his apparent weakness, his smile was as radiant as ever.
For me the highlight of the night was watching my rebbe dancing with his rebbe. Rav Aharon was mostly being supported by Rabbi Feuer, as he held his hands with noticeable joy and a smile upon his face. Rabbi Feuer’s eyes were tightly closed, during what was obviously a deeply emotional moment. It gave me an interesting feeling of connection - a personal link to prior greatness.
In March 2013, the New York Times published an article entitled “The Stories That Bind Us”. The article seeks to understand the age-old question of what holds families together? “What are the ingredients that make some families united, strong, resilient, and happy, while others are in disarray, fractured, broken, and fragile? Why are some families functional and others utterly dysfunctional?”
The article quotes the research of Dr. Marshall Duke, a psychologist at Emory University, who concluded that those who know a lot about their families do better when facing challenges. Children have the most self-confidence and resilience when they have a strong “intergenerational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves. 
Dr. Duke therefore recommends that parents pursue opportunities to convey a sense of history to their children.
Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, Rabbi of Boca Raton Synagogue, writes: “When I saw this article and read about Duke’s research, all I could think of is the Pesach Seder and the wisdom our sacred tradition. This new research simply affirms what we knew and have practiced for millennia. When we sit at the Seder and tell the story of our people, our children feel part of something larger than themselves. When they hear our personal stories of ups and downs, bitterness and sweetness, they feel part of something larger and greater than themselves. They don’t see their own circumstance in a vacuum or feel the need to face their challenges alone. When they see themselves as part of our collective history and our family’s personal narrative, they are encouraged, strengthened and uplifted.”
I would venture to add that, as Torah Jews, we actually have two senses of tradition that we connect with. Our initial connection is with our physical, nuclear family - our biological roots. That is what we celebrate and revitalize on Pesach. The korbon pesach had to be eaten with a pre-arranged chaburah (group), which consisted primarily of one's family. Redemption and hope for the future can only occur when we are able to create and foster strong families.
But we also have another component of connection, and that is the tradition of Torah transmission, from rebbe to student.
For those raised in Torah observant homes, there is an obvious overlap between these two senses of tradition and connection with the past. One’s parents are an obvious vital link to one’s spiritual past. But being part of the transmission of Torah traverses our biological families. Our rabbeim and Torah teachers ensure that we are a link on the continuing chain or Torah transmission.
My older brother, R' Yitzie, is a student or Rav Henoch Leibowitz zt'l. Like all of Rav Leibowitz's talmidim, he is proud to recount how he is part of the tenth generation of Torah transmission (rebbe-student) from the great Vilna Gaon. Such knowledge infuses a person with an equal sense of pride and responsibility.
Like Pesach, the Yom Tov of Shavuos, also celebrates and revives our personal story. However, while Pesach reconnects us to our physical past, Shavuos reconnects us with the story of our spiritual past.
Father to son represents one unbroken chain, while Rebbe to student represents an equally unbroken chain. The intertwining and confluence of those two chains is what has maintained our eternal nationhood, the Torah people, from Sinai until the end of time.
It's a story that transcends all time and place, a story we must never forget.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum        

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