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                          New Year’s Revelations

                                              Rabbi Binyomin Lipson

One warm summer night, a Rabbi paid a shiva call to the family of a well-respected member of his community who had been known both as a successful businessman as well as an accomplished scholar who was well versed in Jewish knowledge. The living room was filled with a large crowd of visitors who overflowed into the other rooms of the house. Realizing that he would not be able to speak to the family immediately, the Rabbi entered the study and perused a few of the Torah books that lined its walls. To his great surprise, almost any book that he opened was filled with underlined passages and pages with extensive notes jotted in the narrow margins.

It was simply amazing. The Rabbi knew that the man was learned, but he had no idea to what extent. In addition to his great amazement with this discovery, there was something else that had been bothering him for quite some time that now began to take on a completely different dimension. Although the deceased had been a learned man, his sons were hardly cut from the same cloth. True, they were observant Jews, but they didn’t possess a drop of the desire to learn that their father had displayed. Now, after seeing the man’s library, the Rabbi was even more bewildered than before. How could it be that the children of a man who undoubtedly invested several hours a day to Torah learning didn’t have the slightest interest in Jewish knowledge? How could it be that a trait that was so ingrained in the life of a father hadn’t had even the slightest effect on his children?

The Rabbi decided that when he spoke to the children he would find a way to breach the subject and seek out an answer to his burning question. When he was finally able to sit down with the family he spoke with them for some time. He praised the outstanding traits of their father and expressed his amazement at the level of knowledge he had achieved even while maintaining a full work schedule. Then, one of the man’s sons expressed his regret that he had not followed in the way of his father and pursued his Torah studies with greater resolve. As he looked around at the others’ faces, the Rabbi could see that his brothers shared the same sentiment as well. “So why do you think this happened?” asked the Rabbi. “Why do you think that you didn’t inherit your father’s diligence in learning?”

“Let me explain something Rabbi,” explained another of the brothers, “when my father learned he closed the door.”

As we approach Yom Kippur we all try to examine our ways and see how we can improve ourselves during the coming year. However, even if we are successful in implementing certain improvements in our behavior, we must also take steps to ensure that our growth is expressed in a way that will be passed down to our children. Just as a parent who sets a negative example for his child leads him in the wrong direction, a parent who is personally dedicated to Torah values yet fails to display them publicly to his children also fails to guide them along the proper path. While we do not strive to make public our level of religious observance, and may even attempt to conceal it from our friends and associates, when it comes to the education of our children we must make sure they are well aware of every good deed that we perform; there is simply no place for modesty.

As parents, we must realize that in the eyes of our children our actions are worth far more than a thousand words. When we conceal our actions, Hashem can see what we have accomplished and will surely reward us, but this does not mean that they will affect our children. “The hidden are for Hashem our G-d and the revealed are for us and our children for all of eternity . . .” (Devarim 29:28)

Only that which is revealed can possibly have an effect on the next generation. As we are spiritually uplifted by the unique opportunity for personal growth which Yom Kippur presents, let us realize that the power of our “new year’s resolutions” lies not only in how they will affect our own destinies, but also in the positive influence that they will undoubtedly have on our children. 

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