I have seen the future of Orthodox Judaism. It is a future not fueled or defined by either a stringent or a lackadaisical approach to halacha or by the type of shul where one davens. Those are, of course, important aspects of our Yiddishkeit, but I see something different that paves the way for our future.
The future of Orthodoxy lies in the hands of the parents and families who make conscious choices and exhibit mesiras nefesh, self-sacrifice, on behalf of their children.
It is often said that today’s generation has it much easier than previous generations with regard to maintaining an observant lifestyle. We have kosher restaurants, plenty of food with kosher certification, many choices for fashionable yet modest clothing, easy availability of sefarim, online divrei Torah – even Daf Yomi on an iPad.
I admit that we do have it easier, but there are also different challenges that today’s parents face. As this generation’s teens and young adults grow up and eventually become parents themselves, I think it is key that they understand some of the lengths to which their parents went to for them.
For example, there are many parents who choose free or low budget “staycation” options for their family not because they can’t afford something better but because they feel any “extra” money should be earmarked for tzedakah. This is a powerful life lesson for all of us.
What about the parents who look past social stigma and put their teenagers in substance abuse rehabilitation programs? These programs can put an additional strain on an already tight budget. Somehow, though, such parents figure out a way to make it happen because the alternative is unthinkable.
Recently I met a mother who canceled subscriptions to several magazines she had read for years because she realized the articles, pictures, and advertisements were not what she wanted her children exposed to. This has made a clear, tangible, and positive impression on those she is close with.
I know a mother and father who, instead of putting their children in a local public school, both walked away from successful and established careers and moved their family halfway across America to a community that offered yeshiva high school options. How many of us would be willing to do that?
I will never forget the parent who had a limited budget for a bar mitzvah and sold some of her jewelry in order to help pay for her son’s simcha. To part with sentimental and irreplaceable keepsakes must not have been easy, but when it comes to one’s kids, one does whatever it takes.
None of this is done for accolades or to be singled out at a shul tribute dinner. Acts of mesiras nefesh need not be grandiose and life altering. Every little thing we do has an impact. The parents who make sacrifices for their children are investing in and raising the future of Orthodox Judaism.
First published in a Letter to the Editor, from the Jewish Press, Oct 16, 2013
We just came back from a whirlwind trip to Chicago for the Bris of our grandson Moshe Eliezer. My wife went last Monday, and my younger daughter and I went early Erev Shabbos and arrived in Chicago slightly after midday. My wife drove carpool, helped with household chores, and we all reunited for a wonderful Shabbos in West Rogers Park and a Bris on Sunday morning.
The Shalom Zachor was held in our kids’ apartment and people kept arriving all Shabbos evening, with the atmosphere punctuated by Niggunim and Divrei Torah, and lots of Mzonos and non-intoxicated beverages-so that noone had to rely on a “designated walker” to get home. The shul where we davened ( Shaar Tzedek) , from what I could tell, had many yeshivishe and BT families, as well as a dymanic young rav and rebbitzen.
We were able to see old friends who were natives and who had moved to either West Rogers Park or Skokie. It was a great blur of a simcha packed long weekend, but when your kids are living “out of town” ( IOW, anywhere but home) this is what you do for simchas-you pack what they and you need, take the necessary time from work, and just grab an available reservation on a decent airline. Of course, you don’t go every vacation, but many wives visit their kids to lend a helping hand depending on their schedules , etc, and you try to ensure that your kids, barring any issues such as flying during a pregnancy, can spend Pesach and Sukkos with you so you can maintain the relationship with the grandchildren as they evolve from infants to toddlers to the school age, etc.
When our kids were in school, we took economic vacations between camp and school-we went to New Hampshire, Lancaster and Hershey, Niagara Falls, Cooperstown and Boston, among others. When your kids are in yeshiva or seminary in Israel, the yearly visit becomes your vacation, and opportunity for a spiritual recharging of the batteries.
I never wrote about our last trip to Israel-which was in the middle of the winter of 2010 right before the huge blizzard that struck NYC in December of that year. We went for the Bris of our first grandson, which was on a Shabbos in the Yeshiva and Kollel where our SIL was ( RIETS’s Gruss Kollel-which I wrote about previously). It was a wonderful trip, and especially a great spiritual high to participate in the Bris of a grandson in the yeshiva and kollel where our SIL was learning. The Shalom Zachor was great with the other children of the Bnei Kollel singing Zmiros to the Rach HaNimol in his crib and the Bris itself was marked by many of the Minhagim such as the recitation of Psukim from Hallel, which are not recited in Chutz LaHaaretz.
We are eagerly looking forward to a similar experience with a Shalom Zachor in West Rogers Park ( fairly close to R Zev Cohen’s shul) and a Bris in the Beis Medrash of Skokie Yeshiva.
Neil-we recently gave up the NYT not just because of its relentlessly liberal/left and anti-Israel agendas, but also because of its unending promotion of cultural decadence, in its news, cultural, op ed and magazine sections. The NYT has declined precipitously in quality since the days of the 1960s. We replaced it with a good rate for the WSJ.
By the way, we will be in West Rogers Park for Shabbos and the Bris of our grandson this Sunday at the Skokie Yeshiva on Sunday. Please feel free to stop by at the Bris if you have time.
Neil Harris said:
“Recently I met a mother who canceled
subscriptions to several magazines she
had read for years because she realized
the articles, pictures, and advertisements
were not what she wanted her children
It will be a very happy day when Orthodox Jews finally stop buying and stop reading newspapers and magazines that unfairly attack Orthodox Judaism.
It will be a very happy day when pro-Israel Jews finally stop buying and stop reading newspapers and magazines that unfairly attack Israel.