Beit Midrash

  • Jewish Laws and Thoughts
  • Serving Hashem, Mitzvot and Repentance
To dedicate this lesson

The Future


Rabbi Berel Wein

Having just been privileged to attend and participate at the wedding of a granddaughter in the United States my thoughts naturally wander to contemplate the future of my generations. One thing is certain – they will live in a far different world than the one that I lived in. When I grew up in Chicago in the early-middle part of the last century, European Jewry was being destroyed and Orthodox Judaism seemed doomed to extinction. The Soviet Union and Communism generally seemed to be the wave of the future and the small Jewish settlements in the Land of Israel were threatened by annihilation from the anti-Jewish policies of the British rulers of the country. And, bloody Arab violence against the Jews living there continued.

The Arabs were the majority population in the country and were armed and intransigent. In short, it was not a happy time to be growing up as a small, pudgy Orthodox Jewish boy in Chicago. When a Jewish day school finally opened in Chicago and my parents switched me out of the public school system into that fledgling Jewish school, many well meaning neighbors complained to my parents that they were going to cripple my chances for success in life by that move.

In today’s perfect hindsight, all of these certainties and predictions, the demise of Orthodoxy, the triumph of Communism, the annihilation of the Jewish yishuv in the Land of Israel, the inability for Torah schools in America to create "successful" people – all of these descriptions of the future proved to be woefully inaccurate. Predicting the future is a very inexact science. Just ask your financial planner!

I think that my grandchildren’s generation is therefore a bit more wary about predicting what their future world will look like than was mine. Their world is a better current world than was mine. The existence of the State of Israel and its continued growth and success, the explosion of Torah learning and of a resurgent Orthodoxy in the Jewish world, the enormous advances in technology, medicine and life expectancy, all combine to give this generation a high basic level to begin to build upon.

As usual the words of the rabbis are in order here – "The one who is blessed with miraculous happenings does not recognize that those miracles are occurring to him or her." Today’s generation takes much for granted. They don’t realize that their grandparents never really expected to see a strong Jewish state in the Land of Israel, or yeshivot with student bodies numbering in the thousands, or a generation of Jewish women Torah scholars.

That future, which is currently our present, was unseen by my generation. It was probably not even hoped for in our wildest dreams. Yet, all of the impossibilities occurred and form our present world. The question therefore arises: What future do my grandchildren envision for themselves? And more importantly perhaps, what efforts and sacrifices, talent and material wealth are they willing to expend to achieve that far dreamt future?

I think that these challenging questions may, as of this moment, still not be confronted by the emerging generation. But they will undoubtedly have to confront them in the very near future.

Since the future always remains inscrutable, there is little that the older generation can do to prepare the later generation for those undefined and as yet unrecognizable challenges. We can provide them with education, financial help and, hopefully, role models. But, they alone will have to traverse the treacherous seas and shoals of the future. I am greatly strengthened by the realization of what the hand of God’s destiny, so to speak, has wrought for my generation. My own grandparents would, I am certain, be amazed and awestruck as to what my generation has witnessed and accomplished.

The only constant throughout Jewish history has been the moral compass of the Torah and its study and the guiding hand of the Divine, so to speak. Those two factors will be present for our grandchildren’s generation, as they deal with their world and their future. There are abundant dire predictions regarding the future of the United States, the State of Israel, world Jewry and the declining standards of morality in the Western World. I do not discount these opinions lightly. But my life experience has taught me that the future is too uncertain to be accurately divined. As such, I prefer to be sanguine and optimistic about the future world of my grandchildren. He Who has brought us this far will, in His own grace and mercy, bring us the rest of the way as well.
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