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"Then...Teach Aleph!"

05/21/2020 04:47:52 PM

May21

Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham, CDR, CHC, USN (ret)

In this week's parashah, Parashat BeMidbar, we read the following: "...Aharon and his sons shall enter, and they shall appoint them ( the Levi'im [Levites]), each and every one of them, to his service and to his burden." (BeMidbar 4:19)  This verse speaks about how the Kohanim (Priests) were to be assigned specific tasks in their service in the Mishkan (the Wilderness Tabernacle) and the two Temples in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem).  Aharon and his sons were not to be the only Kohanim who were to carry out the required tasks for serving HaShem.  They were to assign (i.e.- teach) the other Kohanim what to do, how to do it, and why it must be done.  This method of "passing the gauntlet" of Judaism can be witnessed within various sects of Chasidism with the rebbe (the Chasidic master) using the senior talmidim (students/disciples) of his Chasidic court to instruct the novices.  Each newcomer is taught to "pay attention to this," "view this as being important," "notice that this is significant," and so on.  But direct spiritual counseling remained under the province of the rebbe who evaluated the individual needs and talents of each novice.

According to Chasidic understanding, each one of us has our own specific contribution to offer this world in which we live.  It is taught that no one else can do what HaShem has assigned each of us to do.  The reason that the rebbe was the personal mentor to the novice was because he felt that the novice needed assistance in order to identify his own personal spiritual path in order to proceed to fuflill the purpose Hashem has assigned to him.  Without this structured guidance, the novice could easily be either overwhelmed or totally intimidated by attempting to ascertain his path in this world and thus end his journey before it truly began.

Yes, I agree that for the majority of the People Israel, only a small number aspire to be a rebbe, a rabbi, or even a fully observant Jew.  However, it is a fact that far too many of us make the decision to stop walking on the path that HaShem has assigned to each one of us even when that path will not result in our becoming a rebbe, a rabbi, or a fully observant Jew.  But the fact remains that each of us is a Jew who needs that mentor, that teacher to help find our own individual path.  All of us need to recognize that as we proceed in this world. we remain as students with very important roles to play.  So, if all you have learned about how to be a Jew is expressed in the fact that you know how to pronounce the letter "aleph" and nothing else, then make the decision to teach the letter "aleph" to someone else with all the joy and devotion for Judaism, for the People Israel, and for HaShem that you have.  By doing so, you then become both a talmid and a rebbe.

Fri, July 3 2020 11 Tammuz 5780