Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022

Ben Achar Ben

“Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon and commanded them regarding the Bnei Yisroel and regarding Paroh, king of Mitzrayim, to take the Bnei Yisroel out of the land of Mitzrayim” (Shemos 6:13). The simple meaning of this command was charging Moshe and Aharon with their historic mission of leading the Bnei Yisroel out of Mitzrayim and speaking to Paroh.

Rashi quotes the Medrash that regarding the Bnei Yisroel, Hashem commanded to be tolerant of them despite their stubbornness and resistance to authority. Sefer Bereishis deals primarily with Hashem’s sifting process throughout history. From the beginning of the world, judging by man’s actions, it was determined who would be His “chosen people,” Klal Yisroel. As I like to say, we, the descendants of the avos hakedoshim, are like a bottle of Snapple – “made from the best stuff on earth.” Our genes contain holiness and refinement, and carry infinite potential to serve as a human Bais Hamikdosh, a platform for the resting of the Shechinah.

But after all of the sifting, we were just raw material with dormant energy. We now had to go through a course of formation into a unified nation. This was a lengthy process involving Golus Mitzrayim, Krias Yam Suf, Matan Torah, and even the chet ha’Eigel. Only then was Klal Yisroel ready for its pinnacle, the building of the Mishkon and the Shechinah dwelling amongst them.

They were a work in the making, and until they reached that goal, Moshe and Aharon would face hardships. They were a stiff-necked nation and would not always accept the words of their leaders easily. For this, Moshe and Aharon were warned to be accepting and to endure their deficiencies. And in the end, it will all pay off, for the results will be astounding.

For this it was necessary to have Moshe and Aharon leading the Yidden together as a team. This was the Moshe and Aharon to whom Hashem said, “Take the Bnei Yisroel out of Mitzrayim according to their legions… This was the Moshe and Aharon” (Shemos 6:26-27). Rashi quotes the Mechilta: “There are places where Aharon is mentioned before Moshe and others where Moshe precedes Aharon, to teach us that they are equal like one.” The qualities of both of them together were essential in forming this holy nation. Moshe Rabbeinu was the “Ish HaElokim” (Devorim 33:1) who demanded exactitude and high standards from his flock. Together with him came Aharon Hakohein, the lover and pursuer of peace, loving people and bringing them closer to Torah” (Avos 1:12).

This is a lesson to each and every one of us in the field of chinuch, whether as parents raising children or as rabbeim and moros teaching students. The first lesson Hashem taught Moshe and Aharon as mechanchim of His nation is that they are in charge of the Bnei Yisroel, the chosen of the world, with tremendous kochos. Be aware of the precious merchandise in your hands. They are descendants of the avos and imahos, and if guided properly, they can conquer olamos.

The following story was related by Rav Yaakov Horowitz, rosh yeshiva of Ofakim: “For a given period of time, I accepted Rav Shimshon Pincus, the rov of Ofakim, as my mentor. I asked him to give me criticism when necessary. Not always did I agree with his rebuke, but I felt that it was a benefit to have someone pointing out my mistakes, for no man is free of them.

“One day, Rav Shimshon came to me with a request. There was a bochur in town with a very bad reputation. He had been thrown out of numerous yeshivos, and at the moment had no yeshiva to attend. The streets were beckoning to him, and if he was still considered a shomer Torah umitzvos, it was clear that if he were to drop out into the streets, he would lose even this little bit of Yiddishkeit. Rav Shimshon asked me to accept this bochur to our yeshiva under certain conditions to be set down with him beforehand. He held that Yeshivas Ofakim could be beneficial for him in preserving his Yiddishkeit.

“I was against this idea, thinking that there was no realistic hope that he could succeed in yeshiva. It would be just another one of many failed attempts to keep him in the Olam HaTorah. Furthermore, I was afraid that he would be a negative influence on others and that the damage he could cause would be much greater than the benefits gained by his still being in yeshiva.

“One day, my phone rang. It was Rav Shimshon on the line. ‘Rav Yaakov,’ he exclaimed with excitement, ‘I have some new information about the bochur. I found out that he is a descendant, ben achar ben, from the holy Chasam Sofer!’ Truth be told, this revelation moved me. Yes, the bochur is in a hopeless situation, and yes he posed a risk for others. But perhaps the zechus avos would help him. Ben achar ben to the Chasam Sofer! Is that a small matter in your eyes? Perhaps it is worth a try. I said that I would give the matter thought.

“Indeed, this new disclosure spoke to my heart. In the zechus of the Chasam Sofer, I was willing to give the bochur another chance, another opportunity to stay off the streets. So I called Rav Shimshon happily to tell him my decision.

“Nothing prepared me for Rav Simshon’s reaction, for at that moment, a deep heartfelt cry burst out from the receiver as he screamed in pain, ‘No, Rav Yaakov! The bochur is not a descendant of the Chasam Sofer…but he is a scion, ben achar ben, from the avos hakedoshim, Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov! He also stood at Har Sinai and accepted the holy Torah. He can also become a gadol in Torah and yirah.’

“‘I don’t understand,’ continued Rav Pincus in a tone of reprimand. ‘Why does the yichus of the Chasam Sofer talk to you, while being a ben achar ben of Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov does not touch your heart? Why?’ he asked in pain. His moving sobs could be clearly heard through the receiver.

“It goes without saying that I couldn’t resist Rav Shimshon’s reprimand, and on the spot I told him that the bochur was accepted to the yeshiva.”

What became of this bochur? We would love to hear that today he is a well known rosh yeshiva who is a tremendous inspiration to others. But no, that is not the case. As the rosh yeshiva suspected, he was not successful in yeshiva, but he did remain a shomer Torah umitzvos. After a period of time, Rav Shimshon notified the rosh yeshiva that if he is keeping him there because he asked him to, he is hereby absolving him of his request. Indeed, the bochur found his way outside of the walls of the yeshiva and was successful. But that is not the most important part of the story.

What is most important is the rosh yeshiva’s conclusion from the entire episode. “From that day on, my entire outlook on talmidim underwent a drastic change. Every time a bochur came to be accepted into the yeshiva, Rav Shimshon’s stinging words rang in my ears: ‘He is not a ben achar ben from the Chasam Sofer, but he is a ben achar ben from Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov. He also stood at Har Sinai and accepted the Torah, and he can also grow up to become an adam gadol in Torah and yirah. Is that a small matter in your eyes?!”

It is also understood that with acceptance policies, there is no general rule for everyone. No one size fits all. Every situation is different and must be judged accordingly, and daas Torah should be consulted. But Rav Pincus’ rule doesn’t only apply to acceptance policies. It is an outlook that we must have about every single one of our children and talmidim. They are ben achar ben from Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov. Each and every one of them has inner potential. It is just a matter of tapping into it and guiding them in the right direction so that they find their inner calling.

This is easier said than done. Not always is it smooth sailing. They can be unreceptive and disrespectful, and they can make it difficult for you. That is exactly what happened with Moshe and Aharon. They had to endure the complaints of the Bnei Yisroel and at times even face a violent crowd. But they always remembered Hashem’s initial instructions in dealing with them. To be tolerant of them. This is how we must treat our charges. Despite their deficiencies, we must show them love and accept them.

We live in a world today where because of modern technology, the speed of getting results has been greatly accelerated. Microwaves have brought us instant meals, computers instant answers, and Amazon instant shopping. So our minds are attuned to seeing instant nachas. But just as our nation went through different stages of refinement and we are still doing so until the coming of Moshiach, so too every individual advances in stages. I’ve seen boys in my first-year mesivta class lagging behind, and suddenly, a year or two later, they get a burst of inspiration and energy and shoot forward, ranking amongst the top bochurim in their class.

We must also emphasize that chinuch is not only about love and acceptance. Yes, that was the middah of Aharon Hakohein, but there is also the middah of emes of Moshe Rabbeinu. Being mekarev does not mean ignoring standards and not being demanding of our talmidim. That is the way of the secular world and it is crippling an entire society. To the contrary, we must set standards with wisdom and motivate our progeny and students to achieve those goals. It means walking a fine line between challenging them and buoying them to greater heights, while at the same time accepting them and comforting them in their disappointments.

This, too, involves walking a fine line, for each individual is part of a unit and there are general rules for the klal. We must avoid at all costs creating mavericks who don’t “shtel tzu,” who live by their own set of rules. At the same time, we must remember that every individual is unique, with his own qualities and challenges, and with wisdom guide them accordingly.

Moshe and Aharon followed these instructions, and when they left this world, they could proudly say that they fulfilled their duty. This was the Moshe and Aharon who were dedicated to their mission from the beginning until the very end (Rashi). Thus, in his parting words, Moshe Rabbeinu was able to say: “Ashreichem Yisroel! Fortunate are you, Yisroel: Who is like you! O people delivered by Hashem…” (Devorim 33:29). They were well on their way to reaching their full potential.

This is the hope we have for our children, talmidim, and talmidos. By following Hashem’s instructions and with tefillos and siyata diShmaya, their potential will be realized and they will bring us much nachas.

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