Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Family by Rav Hirsch

We are already thinking about the summer, Pesach is long forgotten but here is a belated (it seems to be that I am posting late more and more!) essay containing commentary from my beloved Rav Hirsch. It is a commentary on Passover but I guarantee you that it will serve you for the coming summer as well, these words will serve you in life. Don’t wait till the next Pesach to read this! Any time is the right time for chizuk and inspiration!
Matys Weiser

(Subtitles are mine)


Ish "every one of them!" This is the first feature in the character-formation of this people raised upright by God. Every one of them! God has built His Nation upon the personal self-awareness of each individual member of His People; not upon a vague national consciousness finding no response in the warm and feeling hearts of its citizenry. God does not envision His spiritual task undertaken by agents who, as representatives of the people, absolve them from their individual duty.
Ish "every one of them!" was the rousing call which summoned Israel out of its darkest night. And if they were as numerous as the sand on the seashore, one and all would be expected to answer God's call. God has asked and continues to ask each one to help in building His Nation. This Nation cannot dispense with a single member.
Veyikcho luhem ish – (for themselves – each man) God has granted each one independence and human dignity by means of His "unburdening" and "liberating" acts of
Redemption. The Pessach offering, this Jewish declaration of independence, was simultaneously Korban Tzibur and Korban Yichud, and remains so for all time; it was a national act which had to be put into effect, not by national representatives, but by every individual. It became a national act precisely because the nation and all of its members participated in it at the same time and in the same manner.
Thus the first and fundamental feature of the Jewish national character is pride. It is the pride of human dignity and human awareness. It is the proud awareness not of what a person is, but rather of what a person should be. This is the powerful feeling of human worth that never lets a person give up completely but urges him on to reach the pinnacle of self-awareness attainable by all.

Seh The "lamb"—the creature which joyfully follows God as its Shepherd—was the first object demanded by God from His newly independent nation. The "ox," the "ram," the "goat"— strength, power, and energy respectively—these had been surrendered up to God by three misery-laden generations. Centuries of death-dealing suffering had taught them simply to endure their pain with loyal resignation. Joyful submission to the guidance of their life's Guardian; willing obedience to God, their Shepherd—that, they were now to learn. At the moment of redemption, they all became "Lambs"- His sheep, "Sheep of His pasture." All of them allowed themselves to be led by Him to life, just as they had allowed themselves to be led by Him to death. This obedience to God is the second characteristic in the image of the People of God. All of them stand independent, equal, conscious of their equal worth and their equal dignity; but all of them stand equal also in their equal subordination to God: Ish Seh


And Ish seh lbais avos seh lbais (each man – a lamb for the father’s house a lamb for each household)—underlines the third and fourth characteristic of Israel. Each Jew, in the full feeling of independence, subordinating himself to God with complete devotion; each is closely attached to the house of his parents, symbolizing the past, and to the house that he will build, symbolizing the future! Ish lbais avos vlbais, (man for his parental home – man for himself) that is the cornerstone of the Jewish People: to bring forward the traditions of yesterday into the world of today. Every Jew comes forth out of the love of his parents who look after his physical and moral well-being. Every Jew recognizes as the prime purpose of his own striving the task of building another house. By looking after the physical, moral and spiritual needs of his children, he pays the debt of gratitude owed to his parents.
It is not without good reason that family purity is such an essential precondition for Jewish national existence; it is not without good reason that their adherence to family purity lo gilu arayos—was the first merit that made Israel worthy of Redemption and of its selection for its great historic task. Consequently lo shinu shmom vleshonom. Subjected to terror and persecution, Israel did not lose the consciousness of its special mission. Could this have been achieved through any other virtue than the chaste purity of the generations? No Jewish child was exposed to a casual education or entrusted to the care of chance. Was this not achieved because both father and mother were present and available for every Jewish child from birth onwards! Upbringing is the spiritual and moral completion of the physical process begun with conception and birth. All of Judaism is built upon the fact that every Jew is born for one specific life vocation and task; that every Jew must be educated for this life task, and that this spiritual bequeathal of a Divinely revealed vocation is transmitted from generation to generation. Can this Judaism then be truly realized if the child, who is the key to the coming generation, has no father who transmits the Jewish spiritual legacy to him; if the child has no home in which he thrives in the formative atmosphere of the pure Jewish life required for this spiritual legacy?
To be descended from a proper home and to build another such home—bais avois ubais—comprises, therefore, all the good fortune, all the earthly blessings, and all the ethical Calling of the Jew.—And is this not actually basic to all men? Is this not likewise the basic condi-tion for the well-being and ethical perfection of the nations? Is it not also the precondition for all the hopes of mankind?
O that wherever people deliberate about the fortunes of nations and national welfare, about the morals and the culture of nations, about the well-being and tranquility of people and of mankind; O that they would look at this first page of the Magna Charta of the People of God which was bestowed upon them by God! Not at the council tables of princes, not on the fields of battle, not in the factories of the industrialists, not in the halls of business establishments, not even in the lecture halls and educational institutions of, the arts and sciences, and also not in the temples where God is glorified—not there, but in the homes is decided the fortune or misfortune, the prosperity or misery of nations and men. Do you desire good fortune and prosperity? Procreate in purity, take care that in palaces and ordinary homes every new child that is born is looked after, reared, and educated with the love of his mother and father. Facilitate, encourage, and support this ethical building of human households. "Create homes!"—and you will have provided for the well-being of your families, peoples and states; you will have ensured—whether in palaces or in ordinary homes—that human affairs, from the sublime to the most ordinary, are entrusted to clean hands, pure minds and unsullied spirits. The spirit of morality, the spirit of love which can flourish and be practiced only in homes, that spirit will permeate and govern ruler and subject, industry and trade, science and art, religions and temples. That spirit—and no other—will bring about well-being and peace.
There is no surrogate for the home. Let immorality increasingly make a mockery of ethical family life and let children without fathers proliferate in the streets, then all of your politics and diplomacy, all your institutions of culture and learning will not save you from ruin.
Truly, the sages of old probed deeply into the problem of the well-being of nations. They noted that in the Divine Scriptures there is a repeated counting of the people by families and houses. The sages then comment as follows: "When Israel received the Law, the nations of the world were envious, saying: Why are these people deemed worthy to stand nearer to God than others? The All-Holy One silenced them with the words: Bring Me the records of your ancestry. You cannot! Only my sons are able to furnish evidence of their birth according to their families! Therefore, He counted Israel—at the beginning of the fourth Book—after the conclusion of the Giving of the Law in the third Book: Count the members of the entire congregation of the sons of Israel according to their families, according to the houses of their parents! Thus begins the fourth book; because Israel became worthy to receive the Law only through the purity of the lineage of their families. Israel wavered in this purity. They came to Shittim. The people began to go astray. The nations were delighted, saying: The crown they had worn has been taken from them! The glory in which they prided themselves is gone! They are now equal to us!—God then slew all who were morally corrupt and restored the rest to their purity. And then it says again: It was after the dying that God spoke to Moses and to Elazar: Count the members of the entire congregation of the sons of Israel!"—(Yalkut to Numbers I, 1).
And seh lbais avos seh lbais, and now every home, with its manifold filial and parental concerns and efforts, tasks and exertions, seh, must be the object of the loving care and guidance of God and must follow with trusting devotion the provident guidance of God, Ish seh lbais avos seh lbais, and every member of the household, relative to his or her position, as son or daughter, brother or sister. Father or mother, husband or wife, must present themselves to God only as a unit within that household, aware that only in this manner are they the focus of attention of Divine Providence. These are the people with which God built His Nation: Veyas lahem batim – “He built them houses" first.

"Collected Writings" V1 Nissan VI by Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch

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