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December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
 
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Lech Lecha: The Most Important Lesson We Can Teach Our Kids (And Ourselves)

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This is the deep and profound depiction of who Avraham was and what he accomplished. Emunah, a strong belief in Hashem was Avraham Avinu’s trailblazing path and work.

And this is the message of the haftorah. Simply read the pesukim and translate them. They are all about basic emunah. Here’s a sample:

“Do you not know? If you have not heard? An everlasting G-d is the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth! He neither tires nor wearies; there is no fathoming His understanding. He who gives the tired strength, and to someone who has no strength, He increases strength. (Yeshaya 40:28-29)

“Who worked and did? Who calls the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord, am first, and with the last ones I am He. The islands shall see and fear; the ends of the earth shall quake; they have approached and come.” (Yeshaya 41:4-5) (Based on Judaica Press Translation)

And thus, as we begin the new Jewish year, this week’s haftorah prods us to take our emunah more seriously.

All too often, the Torah-observant community does not teach or communicate an expansive and thorough philosophy of Judaism. We raise generations that may continue to be observant, but without any real comprehension of our beliefs. As a result, many secular Jews see the Torah as archaic and old-fashioned. Many don’t even bother to listen when the Torah is defended and explained. They look at observant Jews in the same way people look at Moonies passing out roses. “The Torah is not for free-thinking, rational people,” they say, and any argument for Torah is automatically fundamentally flawed. They may not be able to counter an argument, but they know that the Torah’s argument must be insane. They are close-minded when it comes to the plausibility of Torah.

What then is to be done?

We must make sure that all of our children, both boys and girls, are well grounded in basic Jewish philosophy. In our day and age, simple faith just isn’t enough to guarantee that children remain observant. It certainly isn’t enough to influence others. If children grow up with a strong understanding of our beliefs and can communicate this understanding to others, then perhaps we will gain the respect we deserve – and the next generation will be looked upon as articulate and wise. After all, the Torah is the oldest, most beautiful, and most logical religion the world has to offer. It is a tragedy that even we Jews do not always recognize this. We must make sure that, above all else, our children and young adults leave our schools armed with this knowledge and awareness.

Rav Yaakov Weinberg would always say that the most important fundamental that should be taught in schools is that of the uniqueness of the Jewish people and Jewish religion. Only then can we guarantee that our children (and ourselves) will not become swayed by arguments against Judaism. By raising a generation of proud, appreciative, philosophically educated Jews, we will have created a respectable reputation for Judaism in the process. And we will have emulated Avraham Avinu.

These are some of the happenings in this week’s haftorah.

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