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Beit Midrash Family and Society Our Role in the Redemption

Translated by Hillel Fendel

Blending the Wisdom of Age With the Energy of Youth

When the Jewish Nation hesitates at important crossroads in history, it may be because we have to relearn how to use our unique national strengths – each of which is suited for a different generation.
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We, the People of Israel, are the oldest nation on Earth, yet we still feel young – because of the national revival that we have experienced during these recent generations.
G-d's love and compassion towards us, and the renewal of our national strengths, enable us to sense the truth of the words of the Psalmist: "Who crowns thee with lovingkindness… – like an eagle your youth will be renewed" (Psalms 103).
When Jacob blessed Judah among his sons, he gave him kingship over Israel and said, Gur Aryeh – "young lion, O Judah" – meaning that the nation will have the strengths of youth, as in Gur, as well as the powers of maturity and older age, Aryeh. We are able, at one and the same time, to be both a Gur and an Aryeh.
Youth and maturity each have what the other does not, for better or for worse. One who is older has life experience, realism, patience, and the ability to stand and face the great changes taking place around us. On the other hand, he also might easily become tired - not only physically - as well as passive and stuck in a given pattern of thought and way of acting.
We then turn to youth, where we find daringness, the ability to think in new ways and take responsibility. At the same time, youth often brings a failure to see realistically or to carefully test new ideas. Young people often wish to attain their aspirations at any price, and do not always notice the warning signals along the way.
There have been generations in which Am Yisrael [the Nation of Israel] revealed mostly youthful strengths – and there were also generations when it was the advantages of older age that helped sustain the nation. At times that Israel carried out historic revolutions, such as during the times of Joshua, King David, Ezra/Nechemiah, and Rabbi Akiva, it was the strengths of youth that led the way. But in generations in which our task was mainly to stabilize and perpetuate what we had accomplished beforehand, it was our "old age" and its advantages that kept us going.
And what about today? Are we mainly old, or could it be that we are chiefly in the prime of our youth?
I believe that most of the generation that built the State of Israel would agree that it was chiefly the strengths of youth that spurred us on. Of course the hidden engine that fueled the revolution was a very ancient one, but it was mostly concealed.
It appears now, in our current situation, that G-d is bringing us to a stage in which we must once again connect, even more strongly, to our powers of old age. That is, our old age must no longer remain concealed, and we must activate it together with our strengths of youth. It is not easy to coordinate both at once.
The danger currently facing us [the Disengagement from Gush Katif - ed.] stems from the fact that we are drawn to the weaknesses of both forces. We must strive to use both of them from a position of strength, and not the opposite.
The threatened expulsion looming over us stems, on the one hand, from fatigue and passivity. After the great effort required for the establishment of our state – the great forces of youth that activated a course of change and taking responsibility – a negative old-age force seems to be taking over. A fatigue seems to be coming over us, seeking to stop us from completing the revolution we began a generation or two ago.
Every war we fight, and every terrorist attack against us, adds another wrinkle to our national face. From taking the initiative and showing leadership, we have shifted to "survival mode" and preservation of what we have. On the other hand, this Disengagement/expulsion also stems from negative youthful aspects: the desire for an immediate solution, right here and now. When the main objective is simply to get to a defined destination or goal by a pre-set deadline, it's impossible to enjoy the actual trip. There seems to be no patience or ability to look around and check along the way. We are simply too entangled, psychologically, to pay attention to the warning bells.
How can we fix the situation? What we can do is to begin to understand the amazing powers that we have and how to use them correctly.
Old age in general does not have to mean tiredness and inaction, as we can learn from our forebears Avraham Avinu and Sarah Imeinu. Avraham used his senior years as a force of revival and motivation: "Avraham was old, coming along in years, and G-d blessed Avraham with everything" (B'reshit 24,1).
And regarding Sarah, the Torah tells us that she died at the age of "one hundred years and twenty years and seven years" (23,1) – teaching us, the commentaries say, based on the Sages, that she merited to have her strengths of youth and of older age work together in total unison: when she was 100 she had the potency and qualities of a 20-year-old and a 7-year-old. For Sarah, this was not just a metaphor, but something very concrete. The Torah records her words: "After I am worn out, would I again regain my youth" (18,12).
Our properties of old age will give us the incredible strength to withstand all the events taking us place around us. For nearly 2,000 years we have been holding on to the extraordinary vision of loyalty to our land and to our faith and trust in G-d, and it is inconceivable that we should falter now, right when we're almost at the finish line. We know that the Land of Israel is worth all the difficulties of this long trek that we are journeying.
The figure that must stand before our eyes is the wondrous figure of Calev ben Yefuneh. Even when he was old and a veteran of many battles, he continued to be strong and anxious to take part in the conquest of the Promised Land. At the age of 85, when the Israelites were about to conquer the city of Hevron, 40 years after he spurred them on to inherit the Land, he declared: "I am still as strong today as I was on the day Moshe sent me [together with the 11 other scouts]; as was my strength for war then, so it is now" (Yehoshua 14,11) .
And we, too: We must know that we are not just "continuing" what came before, as if we were elderly. We must rather take the great bonds that connect us with our past, and extract from them our powers of youth, which will bring us to further realization of our vision.
We must also take the best of our long years: Just like an old man who has seen so much in his life, and does not fear to be in the minority. He knows that time will take its course, until his loyalty to eternal values proves to be the winning card. Similarly must we embrace his confidence in eternity - in the path and objective that will ultimately be conquered. We will use our youthful energies to actualize the vision, and we will seek out new horizons in which we can bring the vision to fruition.
Let's begin every day as if the idea and concept [of modern Jewish national revival] was just now born. From the outside it might appear that the struggles we are waging today are the same ones we fought yesterday and before that. But upon taking a deeper look, we can see that every day is different – every day is another step in the fulfillment of our great destiny, and is thus an indication of an even greater future that awaits us.
Our Sages say that one who prays and is not answered should pray again and yet again. Can we say that one's prayer the first time is the same as the 100 th time? From the outside it looks the same, with the same words and the same melody and the same place. But when we look from the inside, more penetratingly, we see that every prayer brings the goal closer. We know that for the 100 th prayer, the worshiper is in a totally different place than he was for the other ones. In order to pray 100 times, one must have depth of soul on an entirely different level than one who prays once.
The great magnitude of our vision and destiny is exactly the reason that we must pass through so many tests and stations along the way to its fulfillment. But we must always note that we never stand in one place even for a moment; we are always advancing. This can be seen in some ways very clearly, but in so many more ways, we must know that our progress is invisible, and on an inner and spiritual-national level.
Despite and because of all the obstacles, delays, and doubts, we continue along our path with greater strength and certainty. For as an elderly nation with a past that spans thousands of years, we know we can continue for decades more in joy and strength in order to complete the mission and vision. And as a nation with a youthful spirit, we will seek and find the ability to disseminate our faith in ways that we have never tried before.
Gur Aryeh Yehuda!
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