Latest update: May 1st, 2014
Unfortunately, with today’s generation gap, children can’t understand or relate to their parents’ experiences. For many Jews today, the Lech Lecha of their parents, their life experiences, their Judaism, is irrelevant. In order for us to inject meaning into the stories that we write during our lives, we must do more than simply put words on paper. We have to create a climate for our children to appreciate the events that shaped Jewish history.
Today we have unprecedented access to various texts, but too often they are simply words on paper. We lack the involvement and participation in the events we study. The great scribe does not write on parchment or paper. He writes on the hearts of people and influences their lives.
He transmits a living Torah she’be’al peh and associated living experience to the next generation, ensuring the flame of Torah burns eternally. These scholars were called sofrim because they transmitted our traditions and Torah. Their greatest accomplishment was to keep Torah alive for subsequent generations, creating living sefarim.
One need not write tomes during his life to earn the title of sofer. We have no recorded writings from the Baal Shem Tov. Yet his Torah was spread throughout the world by his living sefarim, his many students. Moshe Rabbeinu was called safra rabba d’Yisrael, the great scribe of Israel. We find that Moshe wrote a sefer Torah towards the end of his life. Yet he earned the title because of the Torah he taught and inscribed into the hearts and souls of bnei Yisrael so that they might be the scribes for the next generation. Just as the original word of God continues to drive nature, Torah is as alive for us today as it was thousands of years ago. Our uniqueness lies in our ability to transmit Torah from generation to generation, despite great difficulties, without diluting the message.
Sippur yetzias Mitzrayim is more than telling a story. “Vehigadta l’vincha” (Shemos 13:8) requires a father to write the book that will become his son as a carefully written sefer, not as an igeres. The obligation to be the scribe of this book extends well beyond the Seder night; it encompasses all of life. In every generation the Jew must view himself as if he just left Egypt. He must feel that he has participated in the entire, collective Jewish experience and must inscribe this knowledge into the book that is his child. Sippur yetzias Mitzrayim represents the book of Jewish existence that a father must pass to his child.
There were many great scholars who were not able to permanently inscribe the sefarim that was their children. They were only able to write an igeres, a short-term note, that their children quickly discarded when they left home. Yet there are simple parents who succeeded in making a permanent inscription into their children’s personality. They were able to write on the hearts of their children their Seder, their feelings on Tisha B’Av, the beauty of their Shabbos, the solemnity of their Yom Kippur and their blessing of their children before Kol Nidrei in a way that made a lasting impression on the child, an impression that stayed with him throughout many years of separation and struggle. Why should the scholar fail where the simple person succeeds?
Chazal say that there are ten synonyms for prophecy, one of which is the word masa. There are two explanations why masa refers to prophecy. The first is that the prophet would raise his voice when presenting the message of God to the people. The second is the Rambam’s (Moreh Nvuchim) that masa is used to indicate that prophecy was a heavy load for the prophet to bear.
About the Author: Rabbi Joshua Rapps attended the Rav's shiur at RIETS from 1977 through 1981 and is a musmach of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan. He and his wife Tzipporah live in Edison, N.J. Rabbi Rapps can be contacted at email@example.com.
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