One of the more salient lessons that we derive from this week’s Torah reading regarding Abraham and Isaac is the emphasis that the Torah places on the fact that they went together to ascend to the mountain of Moriah. The hallmark of Jewish life over its long history has been the continuity and bond between generations.
Every generation differs in many aspects from the generation that preceded it. This certainly is true regarding the Jewish generations that have existed over the past few centuries. Scientific discoveries, enormous social changes, technology and communication that was previously unimaginable and an entirely different set of social and economic values have transformed the Jewish world in a radical fashion. It is much more difficult, if not even, in some cases impossible for parents and children to walk together towards a common goal.
The secularization of much of Eastern-European Jewry during the 19th and 20th centuries is testimony to this fact. Even though different generations will always see matters in a different light there perhaps has never been such a radical and almost dysfunctional separation of generations as we undergone during this period.
It is basically true that the new generation of the 20th Century also wanted to reach and climb the mountain of Moriah, but they did not want to do so accompanied by their elders. In discarding the previous generation and its teachings and way of life, the new generation ascended many mountains, but they never climbed the right one. And much of Jewry today is stranded on strange peaks and at dangerous heights.
The challenge of the continuity of generations is an enormous one. No matter how hard each family may try, not one has a guarantee of 100% success in maintaining the great chain of Jewish tradition. In fact, in my opinion, the challenge and task of today’s generation, to somehow remain connected and retain their values and purpose in life, is far greater than when I was a child.
Being able to walk together, facing the enormous challenges of modern life is a rare blessing in our time. It is not merely a matter of education and finding the right schools and raising children in a positive environment, but it is even more importantly the development of familial pride, with its warmth and love that are important and necessary to achieve the goal of generational continuity.
There is no magic bullet, or one size fits all solution to this type of challenge. There is a famous metaphor attributed to one of the great Eastern European rabbis who said that we are all but ships traversing the sea to arrive at our final destination. Every ship leaves a wake in its passing to mark where the safe passage exists. However, that wake soon disappears and every ship must make its own way across the sea of life. The same is true about binding the generations together. The attempt to do so must be constant and one should never despair. It can be achieved.
Rabbi Berel Wein