Concentric Circles:Contrasting Worlds
As we begin this Shabbos to start reading the Torah afresh, let us take note
of the cycle we have just completed. We have come to the end of the Five
Books Of The Torah, reading a Torah portion each week of the year. The
process just culminated with the joyous holiday of Simchas Torah, when we
demonstrated our love and devotion to the Torah with exuberant dancing. That
very same day we commenced the reading of the Torah anew, beginning with the
portion of Bereishis which we will conclude this Shabbos.
I always find it most inspirational to watch how the Simchas Torah
celebration is so focused on the children as they dance and cavort about
with their flags, feasting on the candies and nosh we distribute with
abandon. Here at Ohr Somayach, we have a time-honored tradition to lift the
children high in the air before each hakofah to the tune of "Moshe Emes
V'Toroso Emes," (Moses and his Torah are true). With this prelude to the
dancing, we seek to implant within the children a love and desire to absorb
the Torah's internal truths.
An exciting moment for children, this heady experience of being borne aloft
to the fervent singing of "Moshe Emes!" Yet perhaps there is more to this
ritual than meets the eye.
The custom is connected to the Torah's overall concept of education. The
Torah's word for education is chinuch, which actually means to mold, to
perfect. In a slightly different form, the word is also a Biblical Jewish
name, Chanoch. This name is found twice in this week's Torah portion,
referring to two different individuals.
The first Chanoch mentioned in the Torah is the grandson of Adam himself.
The Torah tells us that after Kayin killed his brother, Avel, he tried to
find solace for his reprehensible act in the world of commerce. He left his
traditional agricultural concerns and embarked on business. The Torah tells
us he built cities, calling them by the name of Chanoch, his son. Clearly he
wanted to impress upon his son that although he lacked spiritual stature, he
was a person to be reckoned with and admired for his material accomplishments.
The Torah tells us that after Avel was killed, Adam and Eve had another son,
Shais, who after a number of generations gave birth to Chanoch. This second
Chanoch was markedly different from his predecessor of the same name. The
Torah describes him as a saintly individual who "walked with G-d" and was
detached from mundane pursuits. He died at a relatively young age and little
more is known about him other than he was the grandfather of Noach.
Comparing the two Chanochs, we find the first one was what we might call
today a success story, born into the lap of luxury; a wealthy young man who
was heir to his father's great business concerns. The second Chanoch was a
saintly person, not the type of individual most of us are eager to emulate.
He was aloof from this world; he had no interest in any of the delights that
for most people constitute the pursuit of happiness. Yet the Torah tells us
the second Chanoch lived on for generations whereas the progeny of the first
Chanoch, along with the entire world, were totally destroyed in the flood.
Perhaps we can glean an important educational insight from the respective
legacies of the two Chanochs. Our children are highly astute when it comes
to sensing our deepest desires and aspirations. If we define success only in
material terms, they too will view wealth and luxury as the apex of success.
But such a life, devoid of spirituality, is hollow and ephemeral.
If we are mechanech our children by following in the ways of the second
Chanoch, however, emphasizing eternal and spiritual values, we will be
giving them a priceless and eternal legacy.
So, as we dance with the Torah let us not only embrace the external
excitement and hooplah surrounding traditional Simchas Torah celebrations.
Let our hearts dance in lockstep with our feet so that our children will
absorb our most cherished values and hold them dear throughout their lives.
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos.
Rabbi Naftali Reich
Text Copyright © 2012 by Rabbi Naftali Reich and Torah.org.
Rabbi Reich is on the faculty of the Ohr Somayach Tanenbaum Education Center.