At the end of Yaakov Avinu’s life, he said to Yosef, “Re’o fanecha lo filalti, v’hinei her’ah osi Elokim gam es zarecha – To see your face I did not pray, and behold Hashem has allowed me to even see your children.”
On a simple level, Yaakov was telling Yosef that he never prayed to see him again since he was told by his other sons that Yosef had been killed. The Toldos Chaim, though, asks: Why did Yaakov say, “To see your face (fanecha) I did not pray”? Wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to have said, “To see you I did not pray”?
The Toldos Chaim answers that Yaakov reasoned to himself that even if by some miracle Yosef had, in fact, survived, he would have assimilated after so many years of living in a foreign culture, and “fonecha” – his penimius, his spirituality – would likely have been destroyed.
But, says Yaakov, Hashem has now shown me your fine children – Ephraim and Menasheh – who are walking in the ways of Yiddishkeit, and there is no better proof of the inner makings of a man than how his children turn out.
Concludes the Toldos Chaim: If a person practices superficial Judaism – only doing the rituals to be accepted by others or because he has to – he won’t be able to transmit his Judaism very successfully to the next generation.
On Friday night, we say “V’shamru B’nei Yisroel es haShabbos, la’asos es haShabbos l’dorosom – Bnei Yisrael should keep the Shabbos, to make the Shabbos for their generations.” Reb Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor, the famed Kovno Rav, asked why we repeat ourselves – “should keep the Shabbos, to make the Shabbos”?
He answers that these words inform us what kind of Shabbos we should keep. It should be a Shabbos that will ensure that Shabbos stays with our children. Shabbos should be so full of warmth and inspiration that our children should feel they can’t do without it.
I believe the same idea underlies the Talmudic statement, “Haragil b’ner havyon, lo banim talmidim chachamim – If a person is careful with the candles [of Shabbos and Chanukah], he will have children who are Torah sages.” What it perhaps means is that if someone’s Judaism is full of fire – full of hislahavus and passion – he will have Torah scholars for children. If he, however, practices Judaism in a lackluster, robotic, and passionless fashion, he won’t inculcate a deep regard for Judaism in his descendants.
The Vishnitzer Rebbe, zt”l, once told a chasid in pre-war Europe who sent his children to gymnasium instead of yeshiva, “During the winter when the trees are barren, only a dendrologist [a specialist in the study of trees] knows what type of tree it is. But when the spring comes and the tree’s fruit is visible, everyone knows if it’s an apple tree or a pear tree. So too, the character of a person can be discerned by his fruits.”
The man took the subtle hint and removed his children from the modern school,
May it be the will of Hashem that we serve Him with passion and gusto, and, in that merit, may we be blessed with long life, good health, and happiness to see many generations of Torah success.