Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita
When HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzenski Ztl published his famous sefer, ‘Achiezer’ he traveled to the city of Lodz in Poland and sought out the Rav of Lodz, HaRav Eli Chaim Miezel Ztl. It was the custom of Rabbonim to share their new publications with colleagues and Rav Chaim Ozer was particularly interested in sharing his work with the Lodzer Rav. The two giants had mutual respect and deep friendship for one another. They immediately fell into a deep Torah discussion during which the guest asked the Lodzer Rav why he hadn’t written a sefer yet.
It was well known that the Rav was a brilliant scholar, as well as being renowned for his chesed activities for all his community. He would reach out to every troubled and broken Yied and seek ways in which to alleviate their sorrows. After hearing Rav Chaim Ozer’s complementary question, he invited his chosheva guest to come with him to his side office. The room was filled with tables laden with files. The Lodzer Rav turned to Rav Chaim Ozer and said: “This is my sefer. All those files concern the many cases I am handling. Each one is another Yiddisher family facing challenges that need our support. Loans made, food purchased, it’s all there and accounted for.”
In Parshas Shemos we learn, ‘It happened in those days that Moshe grew up and went to his brethren and saw their burdens… (2:11) Rashi explains, Moshe ‘focused his eyes and heart to be distressed over them.’ Moshe Rabbenu became the Shepard of his people because even when coming from a privileged position in life, living as he did in the palace of Pharoh, he went out of his way to look into the hearts of Bnei Yisroel and emotionally strove in becoming devoted to feel their pain.
We are living in unparalleled times, we are all stretched and weary with the fear and upset of life lived under the threat of Covid19. Our young are particularly bruised by all this. Schooling is closed, then opened only to be closed once again. The ability to share time with other children, something that is of utmost importance for growing up emotionally healthy, has been disrupted. Youngsters living inside masks, apart from loving grandparents and other older family members, without a safe regimen for daily life, may very well become wounded in deep unrecognised ways that will fester and mar their future by causing damage and heartache.
Even today as we see some medical hope beyond these difficult times, we may have to be ready to live with these social disabilities for some time yet. It will take more than a vaccine to solve many of the problems this epoch is storing up for our holy community.
The Lodzer Rav wrote his holiest sefer on the pages of those receipts and vouchers of help. We, here and now, must write the next chapter of that sefer of chesed for our young.
We are going to have to face new and troubling challenges, and in truth we should be preparing now. We will have to offer this young generation help scholastically and more importantly emotionally. We need to prepare mentors (yes that old campaign of mine), specialist teachers, and more than anything else, a communal understanding of their pain.
Are we ready for this? Will we be clear eyed and non judgmental, or will this task be found too difficult and destroy so much of what our Gedolim have built.
Again, let us visit our verse, ‘Moshe grew up and went to his brethren and saw their burdens……’ Moshe had to attain a certain maturity so that he could fully realise the full measure of empathy that is needed to truly lead our nation.
The Golus that was Mitzrayim did not ruin our souls. On the contrary, it provided us opportunities to withstand difficult trials and thereby grow to even greater heights than we could ever have achieved otherwise. To realise this and not lose faith, Moshe, and all future leaders, would have to encourage and support their people, in ways suited for their moment.
Golus COVID must take us to new levels of Kedusha, and this will come when despite all that we have gone through, we stand strong and give understanding love to others and most vitally, to our young.
Hopefully, the Moshiach will come soon, and if Chas Vesholom we still have to wait, let us write books about the miraculous help we gave one another, and how through this quagmire of darkness, a wellspring of love and understanding was created, strengthening our neshomahs and bringing us all closer to the Shechinah. This is our moment, let us not be found wanting.