Wednesday, Jul 24, 2024

Mother Power, Torah Power

Mothers have more power than virtually anyone in the world. The impact that a mother has on her child is incalculable.
After the passing of Rav Pesach Eliyohu Falk, his son, Rav Moshe Falk, told me a remarkable story that was told by his father. When Rav Pesach Eliyohu was a young child, his mother once told him, “Your name is Eliyohu. The Vilna Gaon’s name was also Eliyohu. Maybe one day you will grow up and become a talmid chochom just like the Vilna Gaon.”
Rav Pesach Eliyohu Falk told his son that he never forgot those words said by his mother, because they revealed to him his mother’s true inner desire.
There were certainly many things that contributed to Rav Falk’s ascension to greatness, gaonus and zikui harabbim on a scale that was matched by few, but he himself said that this casual conversation with his mother made an indelible impression on his young mind.
Today’s mothers are so busy just getting through the day that they often don’t understand their own koach to positively influence their children. The thing is that it doesn’t have to be a eureka moment. It just has to be natural. Rav Falk’s mother said this in a way that he understood and recognized that it reflected her true inner desire. That’s all. She didn’t say it every day and she didn’t constantly badger him about it, but he saw that she lived it.
I recently heard a similar story about Rav Matisyohu Salomon’s mother. Rav Matisyohu was about sixteen years old when his father suddenly passed away, leaving a widow and a family without support. When Rav Matisyohu’s mother had to break the terrible news to him that his father had passed away, the first things she told him was, “I want you to continue to learn in yeshiva. Don’t think for a second that you must come and help contribute to the family’s income. Your place is in yeshiva!”
Imagine the impact that this love of Torah and sacrifice for Torah had on the young Rav Matisyohu, who would often relate this story to illustrate his mother’s greatness.
The night that Rav Efraim Mordechai Ginsburg, rosh yeshiva of the Mirrer Yeshiva of Brooklyn, suddenly passed away, leaving behind a home full of children, his wife, Rebbetzin Zlata Malka Ginsburg, a daughter of Rav Chatzkel Levenstein, overheard her children talking among themselves, trying to come to terms with the klop, saying, “What will be with us? Who will support us?” She heard one of her children sobbing, “There is no choice. I will have to find some part-time employment to help cover the family budget.” Rebbetzin Ginsburg related that when she heard those words, she was overcome with a sense of mission. Bursting into the room, she exclaimed, “As long as I am here, nobody will do anything of the sort. You will all bleib bei Torah and become talmidei chachomim. Stop speaking such nonsense!”
Is it any wonder that all of her children grew into tremendous talmidei chachomim and marbitzei Torah?
A MOTHER IS GIVEN THE KOCHOS TO DEAL WITH HER CHILDREN…
We can gain further insight into the power of a Jewish mother from an incident in this week’s parsha. Klal Yisroel was complaining, and it seemed that Moshe Rabbeinu became exasperated and dejected. The misonenim, the complainers, seemed to be seeking a pretext to complain. They began by complaining about how long the journey through the desert was taking. Then, the Eirev Rav, the mixed multitude of people who came out of Mitzrayim with the Yidden, started to complain that they want meat. They were fed up with the daily, monotonous diet of monn. Next, they began to fantasize about how things had been much better in Mitzrayim, where they were offered delicious cucumbers, melons, leeks and onions.
Hashem, kevayachol, became very upset, and Moshe Rabbeinu was at a loss. He did not know what to do. In frustration, he told Hashem, “Why have You done evil to Your servant [Moshe]? Why have I not found favor in Your eyes that You place the burden of the entire people on me? Did I conceive this entire people, or did I give birth to them, that You tell me that I should carry them as a mother carries her little baby? Where shall I get meat to give to the entire nation? I alone cannot carry the entire nation, for it is too heavy for me.”
The Sefas Emes asks a profoundly simple question: We can understand that Moshe said to Hashem, “I alone cannot carry the entire nation.” He felt that it was just too difficult for him; it was beyond his abilities. However, when Moshe said, “Did I conceive this entire people or did I give birth to them that You tell me that I should carry them as a mother carries her little baby?” what did he mean? If it was beyond his abilities, what is the difference whether he gave birth to them or not? Either he has the ability and the strength to care for them or he does not. Why should it make a difference whether or not he bore them? If he cannot care for them, then he cannot care for them.
The Sefas Emes answers with an amazing insight and lesson. From here we see, the Sefas Emes explains, that a father and mother are endowed with the abilities to take care of their children beyond the normal order of things. Yes, there can be times when, al pi teva, in accordance with nature, being a parent is just too hard. But if a person is a father or mother, if he/she gave birth to the child, they are given supernatural strength and fortitude, even beyond their abilities, and they are able to take care of their children no matter how difficult the burden.
Moshe was therefore saying, “Since I did not give birth to Klal Yisroel, I cannot take care of them anymore. It is too hard.”
… AND THE TORAH IS LIKE OUR PARENT
As parents, this is a lesson that should infuse us with chizuk. Sometimes, parents are exasperated. “What can I do? I just can’t! I feel so helpless!” The Torah, however, is teaching us that if you bore the child, you are given supernatural kochos to take care of him or her.
What should we do when, despite our best efforts, we are still not successful? When we have tried everything, but nothing is helping? What, then, can we do?
The Sefas Emes has an answer that can provide tremendous chizuk. He says that Chazal teach us that if you teach the son of your friend Torah, it is as if you gave birth to him. The Torah is like a father and mother to us.
The Sefas Emes also cites a Medrash that says that the Torah is like a nursemaid to the Yiddishe nation. The Torah sustains and takes care of us just as a mother cares for a young child.
The Sefas Emes explains that Moshe Rabbeinu could not bring himself down to the low level to which the Yidden had fallen. That is why he cried out in pain to Hashem, “I cannot do it alone. I just can’t.” However, the Sefas Emes says, the Torah can carry us. The Torah can carry us no matter what and no matter how low we have fallen, raising us up just like a mother has the kochos to deal with her own child regardless of how difficult it is.
That is the power of the Torah.
The Torah guides us, nurtures us, helps us, and cares for us just like a mother and father guide a child. The Torah has the kochos to guide us and the Torah will never reject us, no matter how low we have fallen, just like a mother cannot reject her own child, no matter how low that child has fallen. That is why the Yidden are called “ben Torah” or “bnei Torah,” explains the Sefas Emes, because we are truly the sons and daughters of the Torah. Just like a son and daughter are by natural instinct pulled towards their mother, so too, we, Yidden, the pure neshamos that reside within us, regardless of how much they are encrusted in grime, are pulled towards the Torah.
The Torah therefore protects us and preserves us, so we should never lose hope and we should never be sent away. Yes, Moshe Rabbeinu told Hashem that if he would have given birth to the Yidden, he would have had the kochos for them. The Torah, however? The Torah will always have the ability to save us, guide us and direct us back to serving Hashem.
After all, all of us are bnei Torah, the children of the Torah.

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