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לימוד תורה

Intergenerational transition and continuity

Parshah and its realization - Parashat Ha'azinu - Shabbat Tshuva 5784

Rabbi Eliezer Haim Shenvald

Israel's generations are built one on top of the other like a floor on top of another floor. The new generation has to continue the path, otherwise all the work of the previous generation was for nothing.

This is a complex structure, because no generation is similar to the other, and each generation has a special purpose. On the one hand, each generation must not look back at the previous generation with criticism, as different as it might be, and ignore its contribution, and on the other hand, in order to have a continuation, the next generation must be allowed to build according to its special and different purpose, in an enabling and healthy way. To this end, the previous generation needs to 'let go', appreciate the differences and give it its blessing, without trying to narrow its steps, and fight against it so that it emulates the path of the previous generation, which has just finished its role. Rather, it should rejoice in its success despite the differences, so that the work will not be in vain.

Whoever does not understand this and tries to preserve the leadership of the previous generation, not only is he inhibiting and delaying the development required by the next generation but is also causing inter-generational struggle and hostility. This may cause the next generation to lose appreciation for the previous one and deny its contribution.

Moshe's Song of Ha'azinu (Shirat Ha'azinu), was recited on the day of his passing:

וַיְדַבֵּ֤ר ה' אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה בְּעֶ֛צֶם הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּ֖ה לֵאמֹֽר׃ עֲלֵ֡ה אֶל־הַר֩ הָעֲבָרִ֨ים הַזֶּ֜ה הַר־נְב֗וֹ... וּמֻ֗ת בָּהָר֙ אֲשֶׁ֤ר אַתָּה֙ עֹלֶ֣ה שָׁ֔מָּה וְהֵאָסֵ֖ף אֶל־עַמֶּ֑יךָ ...

"That very day Hashem spoke to Moshe. Ascend these heights of Abarim to Mount Nebo… You shall die on the mountain that you are about to ascend, and shall be gathered to your kin…" (Devarim 32:48-50)

On this day Moshe transfers the leadership to Yehoshua. This day marks the intergenerational line: between Moshe - the 'generation of the desert' and Yehoshua - the 'generation of the inheritors of the land'. On this day, the Almighty commands Moshe and Yehoshua, to come together to the Tent of Meeting:

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר ה' אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֗ה הֵ֣ן קָרְב֣וּ יָמֶ֘יךָ֮ לָמוּת֒ קְרָ֣א אֶת־יְהוֹשֻׁ֗עַ וְהִֽתְיַצְּב֛וּ בְּאֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵ֖ד וַאֲצַוֶּ֑נּוּ וַיֵּ֤לֶךְ מֹשֶׁה֙ וִיהוֹשֻׁ֔עַ וַיִּֽתְיַצְּב֖וּ בְּאֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד׃

"Hashem said to Moshe: The time is drawing near for you to die. Call Yehoshua and present yourselves in the Tent of Meeting, that I may instruct him. Moshe and Yehoshua went and presented themselves in the Tent of Meeting". (Devarim 31:14)

"Only Moshe alone stood in the Divine Presence meaning the Tent of Meeting. But on the same day that Moshe died, Yehoshua stood there as well" (Chidushei Halachot on Sotah 13a:36).

Their joint entrance at the beginning of the day creates a sequence and continuity in the intergenerational leadership:

תָּנָא: אוֹתָהּ שַׁבָּת שֶׁל דְּיוֹ זוּגֵי הָיְתָה, נִיטְּלָה רְשׁוּת מִזֶּה, וְנִיתְּנָה לָזֶה.

"A Sage taught: That Sabbath when Moshe died was a day of two pairs [deyo zugei], i.e., two wise men, Moshe and Yehoshua, serving together in one place. Authority was taken from one and given to the other". (Sotah 13b:19).

שני זוגות שני חבירים היו, בהתחלת היום למשה וסופו ליהושע

"There were two pairs – both of them spoke to Am Israel, Moshe at the beginning of the day, and Yehoshua at the end of the day" (Rashi ibid).

Sages compared this to the continuity between sunrise and sunset:

וְזָרַ֥ח הַשֶּׁ֖מֶשׁ וּבָ֣א הַשָּׁ֑מֶשׁ "The sun rises, and the sun sets" (Ecclesiastes 1:5). Etc.

עַד שֶׁלֹא הִשְׁקִיעַ שִׁמְשׁוֹ שֶׁל משֶׁה הִזְרִיחַ שִׁמְשׁוֹ שֶׁל יְהוֹשֻׁעַ... כַּהֲדָא עֶגְלְתָא תְּמִימְתָא.

"Before the sun of Moshe set, the sun of Yehoshua shone forth… "like a perfect calf." (Bereshit Rabbah 58:2)

מהי "עגלתא תמימתא"?: "נראה לי שפירושו עיגול שלם ... וכן פירש רש"י שם, והוא הגלגל הסובב שכאן הוא שוקע וכאן עולה, וכו'"

What is "Agalata Tamimata" -  a perfect calf? "It seems to me that it means a complete circle… And Rashi interpreted it as a spinning wheel-going up and then going down" (Perush Maharzu –Rabbi Zeev Wolf Einhorn - on Bereshit Rabbah)

This circularity expresses the continuity and consecutiveness that does not stop and becomes one unit.

Every nation requires this intergenerational continuity. Among the Jewish people it is needed even more. Interrupting the continuity may harm the achievement of the complete multi-generational mission.

On the other hand, a clear differentiation is also required at the intergenerational seam, because each generation has a unique essence and a special leadership. It is necessary to draw a clear line between the previous leader's era and that after him, lest the veteran and familiar leader be overshadowed, and his presence undermine the authority of the new leader who has not yet 'bought his place nor proven himself'. Therefore, on that day, the "Gates of Wisdom" were withdrawn from Moshe and passed on to Yehoshua:

לֹא אוּכַל עוֹד לָצֵאת וְלָבוֹא... לָצֵאת וְלָבוֹא בְּדִבְרֵי תוֹרָה. מְלַמֵּד שֶׁנִּסְתַּתְּמוּ מִמֶּנּוּ שַׁעֲרֵי חׇכְמָה.

I can no longer go out and come in... The verse means that he could no longer go out and come in with words of Torah. This teaches that the gates of wisdom were closed off to him". (Sotah 13b:18)

"באותה שעה אמר הקב"ה למשה: הרבה פעמים כיבדתיך כבוד גדול וכו'... ויהושע היה פותח פיו ודורש לפני משה רבו ולפני ראשי גדודים וסנהדרין והכהנים ולפני כל ישראל. ומשה וכל ישראל יושבין לפניו כתלמיד לפני הרב!"

"At that time the Almighty said to Moshe: Many times, I have honored you with great honor, etc… The day has come for your disciple Yehoshua to provide for Israel... And Yehoshua would open his mouth and deliver a sermon in front of Moshe and before the commanders and the Sanhedrin and the priests and before all Israel. And Moshe and all Israel would sit before him as a student sits before his Rabbi!" (Otzar Midrashim -Midrashim on Moshe Our Master -Drash on Petirat Moshe).

And hence to all future generations. Hoping we learn and apply it to our own times.

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