Written by my dear
Mechuten, Harav Hagaon R. Aaron Lopiansky Shlita,
HaYeshiva "Yeshiva of Greater Washington"
amazing letter (printed in his book "Time Pieces")
is too good to
just for yourself. Please share it with others.
inspiring, & powerful letter.
My dear child, It is now a quiet moment
late at night. After an exhausting day of Passover cleaning,
you have sunk into
the sweetest of sleeps, and I am sitting here with a
of haggadas, preparing for Seder night. Somehow the
words never come out the way I want them to, and the
Seder evening is always unpredictable. But so many
thoughts and feelings are welling up in my mind and
I want to share them with you.
These are the words I mean to say at the Seder. When
you will see me at the Seder dressed in Kittell, the
same plain white garment worn on Yom Kippur, your
first question will be, “Why are you dressed like this?”
Because it is Yom Kippur, a day of reckoning. You see,
each one of us has a double role. First and foremost we
are human beings, creatures in the image of God, and
on Yom Kippur, we are examined if indeed we are
worthy of that title.
But we are also components of Klal Yisrael, the Jewish
People, links in a chain that started over 3,000 years
ago and will make it to the finish line of the end of times.
It is a relay race where a torch is passed on through all
the ages, and it is our charge, to take it from the one
before and pass it on to the one after.
Tonight we are being judged as to how well we have
received our tradition and how well we are passing it on.
It is now 3,300 years since we received that freedom in
Egypt. If we imagine the average age of having a child
to be about 25 years of age, there are four generations
each century. That means there is a total of 132 people
stretching from our forefathers in Egypt to us today.
132 people had to pass on this heritage flawlessly,
devotion and single-mindedness that could not falter.
were these 133 fathers of mine? One had been
Nazi death camps; one had been whipped
by Cossacks. One had children stolen by
Czar, and one was the laughing stock of his
brethren. One lived in a basement in
with many days passing with no food to his
the other ran a stupendous mansion in France.
had been burned at stake for refusing to believe
divinity of a flesh and blood, and one had been
to death in Siberia for continuing to believe in
divinity of the Eternal God. One had been hounded
mob for living in Europe rather than Palestine, and
had been blown up by Palestinians for not living in
One had been a genius who could not enter
school because he was not Christian, and one
fed to the lions by the Romans…
132 fathers, each with his own story. Each with his own
test of faith. And each with one overriding and burning
desire: that this legacy be passed unscathed to me.
one request of me: that I pass this on to you, my sweet
What is this treasure that they have given their lives for?
What is in this precious packet that 132 generations
have given up everything for? It is a great secret: That
man is capable of being a lot more than an intelligent
primate. That the truth of an Almighty God does not
depend on public approval, and no matter how many
people jeer at you, truth never changes. That the
quality of life is not measured by goods but by the good.
That one can be powerfully hungry, and yet one can
forgo eating if it is not kosher. That a penny that is
not mine is not mine, no matter the temptation or
rationalization. That family bonding is a lot more than
birthday parties; it is a commitment of loyalty that does not
buckle in a moment of craving or lust. And so much more.
This is our precious secret, and it is our charge to live it
and to become a shining display of “This is what it means
to live with God.” 132 people have sat Seder night after
Seder night, year after year, and with every fiber of their
heart and soul have made sure that this treasure would
become mine and yours.
Doubters have risen who are busy sifting the sands
of the Sinai trying to find some dried-out bones as
residues of my great-great-grandfather. They are
looking in the wrong place. The residue is in the soul
of every one of these 132 grandfathers whose entirety
of life was wrapped up in the preservation of this memory
and treasure. It is unthinkable that a message borne
with such fervor and intensity, against such challenges
and odds, is the result of a vague legend or the fantasy
of an idle mind. I am the 133rd person in this holy chain.
At times I doubt if I am passing it on well enough. I try
but it is hard not to quiver when you are on the vertical
shoulders of 132 people, begging you not to disappoint
them by toppling everyone with you swaying in the wind.
My dear child, may God grant us many long and happy
years together. But one day, in the distant future,
I’ll be dressed in a kittel again as they
prepare me for
my burial. Try to remember that this is the treasure that
I have passed on to you. And then it will be your turn,
you will be the 134th with the sacred duty to pass on
our legacy to number 135.
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