by Mr. Rosen, a visiting parent
One of the interesting things about reading the Torah portion every year is that over the passage of time (and our own growth and life’s experiences) we see it anew, in a different lens, as we get older. There’s a difference in reading a Torah passage in your early 20’s or early 60’s. You see different things in it, the ideas touch you in a different way. Being that this week is a double-header Torah portion, I will give one example from Parsha Achrei and the second example from Parsha Kedoshim.
There are two goats in Parsha Achrei – The Torah tells us that Aaron the High Priest, cast lots upon two goats, one lot for the Lord (becomes a sacrifice in the Temple), and the other lot for Azazel (sent off to the wilderness). (Leviticus 16:8). The Talmud lets us know that the goats were similar in appearance, height, size and value (Yoma 62a/b). Yet, a slight shift of Aaron’s hand brought about different destinies for the goats—one to the Lord, the other to Azazel.
How do we decide which goes where? It is by lots, by chance. How do we view luck? I think this is an area where people see things differently in their college years and later in the middle of their lives. College is a time of many decisions. Many are within our control, but many are not and seem to be up to chance and circumstance? The Talmud comments that “life, children and sustenance are not dependent upon merit but on mazal.” (Moed Katan 28a)
Life is a journey, a life-long path, we make some choices and some choices present themselves to us, and you just never know where you will end up and how exactly you will get there. Our job is to do are best, put one foot in front of the other, and try to make the best decisions that we can given our limitations. As the Ethics of the Fathers (2:15/16) suggests that the work is much, our responsibility is not necessarily to finish the work but to do our part and keep working as the reward is great. It will be for all of you for your future is bright, even if it is still shrouded in fog.
The Torah speaks of respect for parents (Exodus 20:12 & Deuteronomy 5:16) and our Parsha Kedoshim also speaks against cursing and hitting parents. (Leviticus 20:9 & Exodus 21:17) When you are young, your parents are powerful and in control, and you may feel vulnerable or manipulated and sometimes you respond rebelliously or with anger and upset – but as you age, the situation often reverses, with the grown children being stronger and more in control than their older parents.
I think of how I saw these verses at your age, and how I revisit these same verses at my age. The Rabbis tell us that there are seventy faces to the Torah, which means that we can approach the Torah from many different angles and each is a correct approach to take. This perspective can and will change as one gets older and has experienced more.
I wish you to have the wisdom to appreciate the Torah as you study it at each stage of your lives, and to have that kind of positive connection with your parents to learn from and share with them what you have learned. Indeed, one day, may your own children have the same connection with you.