Solving problems, you didn’t know you had
Modernity believes in progress to such a degree that all old is suspected to be obsolete, and old people and their ideas deserve hardly any respect.
Judaism, never too tired of going against the craze of the day, holds that ever since the holiest people in the past, the generations get weaker while there is nothing new under the sun. You’d better respect your parents, teachers, and the elderly and learn from them like crazy.
Nevertheless, Judaism also promotes perfecting our actions, character, and the world. That can happen when we see ourselves as dwarfs who can see further by standing on the shoulders of giants, our holiest ancestors.
Yet, when I look at my kids, I can only say they’re better versions of me. I don’t have the patience to learn systematically; I have a son who lacks that too but learns every day Talmud like that anyway with an unending commitment. I was strictly honest in the Netherlands, where that is the cultural norm; I have a son who prioritizes honesty no less but, in a culture that advocates don’t be a freier (sucker). I had a very diverse circle of friends in Amsterdam, but my daughter’s friends are even more diverse.
I could go on. I ask you: look at your children or students. Aren’t they just better versions of you?
Admitted, I never could transmit to anyone everything worthy I learned in all their details. If I ever die, which I’m not commanded to do and I have no intention of doing, information would get lost. But I see a solution.
I grew up secular-socialist, then became ultra-Orthodox, and then made Aliyah, becoming a real Zionist. I have proud kids who are secular, ultra-Orthodox, or Zionist ultra-Orthodox. Together, they at least equal me. What about people without kids? They are kids from the generation before them. If their whole generation unites, nothing gets lost either.
When all Jews unite, together, we will be higher than Abraham and Sarah. When all people unite, we’ll be higher than Adam and Eve before the Fall, ready to reenter Paradise on earth! May it be soon. We don’t need the Redeemer to save us; we need to save the Redeemer. More than learning to trust in G^d, we must learn that G^d trusts in us. So, He’s optimistically waiting for us to shape up enough to outdo generational decline.
Unity neutralizes generational decline! Steady progress happens fastest when we are united, generously sharing with each other all we know.
This Shabbat was the 99th birthday of Reb Shlomo Carlebach. Yet, the Parashah he loved most was Wayigash because there, all the brothers are reunited. Maybe, therefore, I woke up in the Old City with this new idea about unity. Many happy returns, Reb Shlomo!