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Parshas Tetzaveh - The Sandwhich Generation         8 Adar 5778

02/22/18 23:22:42


With technology improving and medicine advancing, health care for all generations, including the very young and the aging positively increases as well. Over the past fifty years, average life expectancy at birth has increased globally by almost twenty years, from 46.5 years in 1950--1955 to 65.2 years in 2002. This represents a global average increase in life expectancy of four months per year across this time span. In the United States, life expectancy at birth increased by almost nine years between 1960 and 2011. To see three generations today is somewhat common, and we are now witnessing more and more four-generation families. Middle generations numbers two or three face a challenge dealing with their parents and grandchildren. There are a host of challenges which must be faced regarding caring for or attending to the needs of aging parents. We feel guilty because we cannot help enough primarily because we don’t have the time, resources or physical capacity to do the job. At the same time we struggle to allocate adequate time for our parents, we are also bombarded with the privilege and honor of raising our children while dealing with the burden of society’s challenges. This trial is common to many people in the Jewish and non-Jewish world.

There is another significant, uniquely Jewish crisis that looms for the ‘Sandwich Generation’ which has existed only within the last generation or two. I am referring to the Baal Teshuva movement, whereby returnees to observant Judaism face a challenge with their non-observant and sometimes non-Jewish parents, while at the same time are raising their children who surpass their parents’ knowledge. On one side there are the parents who are bereft of Jewish knowledge and practice, while on the other side are their children who are receiving a stronger and more intense Jewish education, I am certain that parents (in this case the Baalei Teshuva) are thrilled that their children come home from day school and yeshiva knowing so much Torah and being able to learn above and beyond them. Nevertheless, these parents need to find the right balance and mixture vital for effective parenting while still maintaining a proper perspective regarding their new lifestyle. This perplexing conundrum can lead parents to question their new lifestyle. How do we address the need to appropriately continue to educate both sides of the family’s generations - the ones who preceded them and the ones who come after them?

I am not sure I have a perfect solution, but I do have a suggestion. Beginning with last week’s parsha Teruma to the end of Shmos, we read and learn about the Mishkan and all that it contained. The Mishkan is the house where Hashem can reside in this world. But it also stands as a model for every Jewish home as well. The Jewish home is the place to raise our children, educate them and create harmony within all generations of family. It is interesting to note that in the printed Chumashim there are little ‘signs’ of interest. For example, there is a vertical line between the second and third word of Tetzaveh. Apparently, it is there to separate something, I would suggest the first word ‘You’ which typically and traditionally refers to Moshe, can be expounded upon to reflect every head of house. The line delineates a separation between the generations of the house of Israel. This message is reinforced in the following words of Chazal.

In this week’s Parshas HaShavua TeTzaveh the Torah states in Shmos 27:20 “V’Ata TeTzaveh Es Bnai Yisrael V’Yikchu Eilecha Shemen Zayis Zach Kasis LaMaor L’Ha’alos Ner Tamid”. “You, [Moshe], must command the Israelites to bring you clear, illuminating oil, made from hand crushed olives, to keep the lamp constantly burning”. Rashi explains the word ‘crushing’- the olives were crushed in a mortar; they are not ground with a mill-stone. This is done to assure that there will not be any remaining sediment. Only after he has obtained the first drop does he put the olives into a mill and grinds them. The second oil is unfit for the candlestick, but it is fit for the meal offerings, as it is stated ‘beaten for the light’, but it is not essential that it be beaten for meal offerings. Rav Aleksander Levinson explains that the difference between oil used for the candles and oil used for the offerings is the same difference in the two approaches to serve Hashem. Some serve God because they are commanded and thereby do it, while others serve Hashem as a hart (deer) yearns or longs to oblige. In the sense of the hart or deer, a person serves Hashem through an inner desire to get close to Him. The innermost voice within tells him to do the Mitzva. On the other hand, the person who does the Mitzva strictly because he is commanded to do so is like a servant who follows the command of his master without knowing why, without understanding the purpose for doing the Mitzva. Both methods of serving God are observed, and both methods are necessary.

Taking an olive and crushing it to take the oil for lighting of the menorah was strictly a commandment. The first words of the parsha and the name of the parsha “Tetzaveh” is the command. The command represents the first drop of oil to ooze out from the crushing process. This resulted from the obligation of the Mitzva itself. The second drop of oil for the Mincha offering was not from the crushing. The Korban Mincha was brought to show gratitude and give thanks for all the goodness Hashem bestows upon us. This sacrifice and offering came from within our essence, from a deep desire to get close to and cling to God. As it states in the beginning of Vayikra, it was the ‘Nefesh’- the soul - and the person who would offer it, not because it was a command. The word Nefesh/soul is only mentioned by the Mincha Korban.

Each and every person serves Hashem within his or her own capacity, some needing a direct command, others willing to do it on their own. A similar distinction is made between Chassidus and the contemporary Mussarniks. The strict Mussarniks who follow the laws in a more straight and narrow fashion are doing so because they are commanded. Chasidim, on the other hand, represent the inner joy in performing the commandments as a mechanism to get close to Hashem.

These two paths or philosophies need to be implemented in EVERY single Jew, sometimes using one method and, when necessary, sometimes applying the other. With regard to the extreme generations, we need to assign different methods to each group. When Baalei Teshuva deal with their non-observant relatives it must be taught through Tzivuy or command, this is what we do and this is how we do it. We educate them to the basic tenets and rules of the Torah. When it comes to the educated children of Baalei Teshuva, the parents need to display an inner spiritual desire to get ever closer to Hashem. Parents from all backgrounds need to teach by example and display the fire that burns in them to get close to Hashem. The ritualistic component obviously must be done, but to educate our children it must be from within and the desire that we want to do the Mitzvos not that we must do the Mitzvos.

Our hope and prayer is to educate from both sides and bring the family together, showing and displaying a love of Torah and fulfilling the Mitzvos because we are commanded to do so and because we want to do so.


Ah Gut Shabbos
Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Sat, December 14 2019 16 Kislev 5780