These are very heavy weeks. As we move from Yom HaSho’a Ve-haGevurah last week into Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut this week, we realize how much we have to remember. This week in school we remembered the latest victims of the latest round of fighting in Israel: Moshe Agadi, Moshe Feder, Ziad Alchmamada, and Pinchas Menachem Fishvazman.
But we also realize for how much we must be thankful. My own thoughts of Israel are often inextricably bound up with my time spent studying Torah there, which is an experience that at the time I took for granted, but which I have since come to appreciate as a unique privilege of my time in history.
This past weekend marked the fourth yahrtzeit of my rebbe, Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein. A PhD of English literature and a true talmid chacham, Rav Aharon, as we all called him, was both an intellectual and spiritual role model. Rather than sharing his intellectual Torah, what follows is some of the Torah that he taught through his actions.
The third verse of this week’s parasha of Kedoshim famously reads ish imo ve-aviv tira’u, “revere your mother and father,” ve-et shabtotai tishmiru, “and keep My Shabbatot,” ani Hashem Elokeichem, “I the LORD am your God.” The question is asked of why the order of parents is reversed in this pasuk from the order in the Ten Commandments, where avicha, “your father,”comes beforeimecha, “your mother.” Why does Mom come before Dad here? The thirteenth-century commentator Chizkuni, Rabbi Chizkiyah ben Manoach, writes that this isn’t about who’s first or second; rather, dad is listed second here because that’s closer in the verse to the mitzvah of Shabbat and — this is not what I would have thought — it’s dad’s job to teach kids about Shabbat.
My friend and teacher Rabbi Aaron Goldscheider has collected a number of stories of how Rav Lichtenstein demonstrated the appreciation of Shabbat and of his family: Rav Lichtenstein decided to avoid soup during the week in order to keep it as a special Shabbat dish, preserving the special nature of Shabbat in the smallest of ways. In his home, Rav Lichtenstein insisted on personally washing the dishes every Friday night (although he had plenty of reasons to be too tired to do so). He explained that he did not want any of his family members to associate Shabbat with annoying chores. Finally, Rav Lichtenstein did not bless his children at the start of the Friday meal; rather, he spent a moment with each of them before they went to sleep to offer them his blessings and focused attention.
In what ways do we — whether we are Dads or Moms — teach our children how important Shabbat is for us and how important we want it to be for them? What new ways can we find to do so?
I’m eager to hear what ideas you invent for your families.
Shabbat Shalom, and Mo’adim le-simcha le-ge’ula shelema.