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Departures

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It seems to me that the month after the holidays of Tishrei is always marked by the sad events of the deaths of notable people. This past month saw how the yeshiva world was struck by the deaths of Rabbi Nosson Zvi Finkel, the head of Yeshivat Mir in Jerusalem and Rabbi Dov Schwartzman, a leading Torah scholar and head of the Lakewood East educational institution. There were other losses that also occurred both here in Israel and in the Diaspora. King Solomon’s wry comment that "a generation comes and a generation leaves and the world remains eternally" is significantly true. The older generation of Torah leadership and scholarship is certainly passing from us. Who the new leaders will be is certainly not yet clear. But there is no doubt as time inexorably marches forward that many of the aged current leaders, may they continue to live and be well, will pass from the scene. A new generation is coming and what shape that generation will take and who will be its acknowledged leaders is hidden from current wisdom and predictions. Though every generation claims to be the continuation of the one that preceded it - and to a certain extent this is naturally true - the reality is that every generation and its leadership must forge its own tools and methods in order to meet challenges that newly arise and were not present in previous times. Even though human nature rarely changes and the problems of desire, violence and dishonesty are constants in the human story of all generations, the circumstances of life and living do change because of newly discovered means of technology, political upheaval, economic dislocation and new "isms" that constantly arise. What was once thought to be a correct response to the challenges of the 1850’s cannot in reality be seen to be helpful or successful one hundred fifty years later. That generation is gone. The new generation is arriving. The question is what will be the response of that new generation to its particular problems and challenges.

The Jewish world loves to hold on to ancient disputes and relive battles that were fought and decided long ago. The wars between the Zionists and anti-Zionists, between the proponents of Chasidut and its opponents, between the Bundists and the other Leftists, all seem to have been settled by events that have occurred over the past century. Yet the ideological wars continue as though they have true relevance to our situation. Now that there are six million Jews living in the State of Israel the debate, practical, theological or historical, as to whether that state should have come into existence originally is certainly moot and contributes nothing to guaranteeing the safety and existence of those six million Jews. Since the majority of Orthodox Jewry consists of Chasidim and those who are descended from Chasidic stock it is pretty useless and self-defeating to continue that war which has been settled demographically over the past number of generations. The Left, especially the radical Left, has been responsible for disaster after disaster - economic (look at Europe, the Soviet Union, Mao’s China, etc.), social (the Gulag and the defeat of Communism) and diplomatic (The UN and all of the sham issues, conferences, and resolutions that it has fostered). Yet it persists, here in Israel and all over the world, with its pie in the sky demands and proposals, having apparently learned nothing from past failures and mistakes. It is so hard to let go of ideologies firmly held by previous generations in spite of the fact that they have proven to be wrong headed and unsuccessful and impractical. The old generation has passed but the old ideas somehow still hold sway.

It is imperative that the new generation bring with it new ideas in the Jewish and general world. Practical plans for a better and wider system of Torah education, for stronger family life and realistic recognition of the human and physical problems involved in marriage and child raising, a coming together of practical steps to strengthen Torah knowledge and observance in Israel and the Diaspora, realistic relations with all types of Jews and Jewish organizations, all are challenges that will face the coming generation. Hopefully, that generation will prove wiser and more successful in dealing with these challenges than its predecessors. The "world remains eternally" promises us that there never will be any easy escape from new challenges and difficulties. Every generation is judged by its responses to its diverse problems and challenges. The departure of the old, sad and sorrowful as it is, creates the opportunities for those who come after them. Such is the way of the world as ordained by the Master of all of us.
Rabbi Dov Berl Wein
The rabbi of the "HANASI" congregation in Yerushalim, head of the Destiny foundation, former head of the OU, Rosh Yeshiva of 'sharai Tora" and rabbi of the "Beit Tora" congregation, Monsey, New York.
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