Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger
Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger

The Interdependence of Generations

(26:53- 55) "To these [the families entering Israel under Yehoshua] the land shall be divided for an inheritance according to the number of names. To the more numerous you shall give more and to the fewer you shall give less.... Nevertheless the land shall be divided by lot according to the names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit"

In interpreting the pesukim above, Rashi understands that while the Torah refers to the individual's acquisition of Israel as an inheritance ("yerusha"), it in fact was far different from the laws and mechanics of inheritance that we study today. The initial system of inheritance of the land of Israel described in the pesukim is the only legacy that has the deceased receiving from those still alive. Rashi explains that the land was first divided equally amongst those entering Israel and then combined and reapportioned to their parent, i.e. the senior family member who left Mitzrayim. Finally it was equally divided between the heirs of those that labored in Mitzrayim and personally experienced the miraculous redemption. What does the Torah wish to teach us through this most unusual manner of patrimony?

The Torah is instructing us to appreciate that even the most momentous accomplishments of any single generation, even those accomplishments that seemed far beyond the reach of parents and grandparents, are the cumulative results of the efforts of several generations. There is no doubt that the Jews entering the land were a courageous and awe inspiring group. They conquered powerful nations and they witnessed the crumbling walls of Yericho. Their bitachon did not fail them and no sin of spies or a golden calf delayed their ascent. They were to be the first to enact all the laws of the Torah, from Mishkan worship to the intricate laws of tithing. If there was a generation whose families' names should be associated with the allotment of the Holy Land and the subsequent harvests of plenty, surely it should be "these" pioneers. Therefore the Torah established that they should determine the size of every family's hold on the land. Those privileged to live in Israel will forever point to that generation in explaining why they have a rolling expanse in Israel or a quaint fertile portion.

However, the Torah stresses that the generation who merited to leave Egypt, despite the decree barring their entry into Israel, are so much a part of the destiny of our nation and our land, that they too must be engraved in its very terrain. They who had suffered the pains of oppression and enslavement, who had borne witness to the greatest miracles of all, who as a group were of unparalleled prophecy, and who were marked by their unfailing devotion to follow G-d into barrenness, should not be forever judged by momentary failings, no matter how perplexing. After all, were these first settlers not readied for their mission through the yearning of the Dor Hamidbar (the preceding generation that had spent 40 years in the desert), strengthened by the faith nurturing experiences of their parents? Did not the nation as a whole need the maturation cast upon them through the suffering of their parents and were they not to absorb into their blood the faithful optimism of their mothers?

In my mind the recognition of the interplay between generations was brought to life in a response of Rabbi Yechiel Michel Tuckazinski, one of the saintly giants of Jerusalem, to one of the burning questions of this century. He addressed himself to the secular Zionists of his day, who correctly displayed singular pride in their energies which had been selflessly invested into the forerunner and early stages of the State of Israel. They expressed that their contribution to our nation had far surpassed the accomplishments of the leadership of the "chareidim" of their time. Rabbi Tuckazinski validated their feelings of having left an immeasurable legacy. Nevertheless, he continued, none of this would ever have happened had there not been generations of Jews who kept the passionate love of Israel afire through their thrice daily yearnings for the land and its restoration.

Our own generation often takes great pride in the increased focus on mitzvah observance and Torah study that we are experiencing. Would any of this be happening if not for the visionary individuals and their selfless supporters who established yeshivot and day schools throughout the United States during a time that was altogether insensitive to the spiritual yearnings of the Jew?

This interdependence of several generations and the understanding that any attachment to Torah and Israel is grounded in the inspirations and accomplishments of earlier times is well communicated through the settling of Israel, and as such is to become an uncompromising part of our thinking.

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