| Parshah |

Back to the Future

We’re not merely focused on this generation — we’re focused on all future generations as well

 

“Pharaoh… said to them, ‘…Who and who are going?’ Moshe said, ‘With our youth and with our elders we will go, with our sons and with our daughters” (Shemos 10:8-9).

Rav Paysach Krohn relates a famous story about Rav Shlomo Heiman, former rosh yeshivah of Torah Vodaath. Reb Shlomo gave an exciting and animated daily shiur. One day there was a blizzard. Most of the bochurim assumed shiur had been canceled, so only four students showed up. But Reb Shlomo also braved the snow and delivered his shiur with the same fervor as if he were speaking to his usual packed auditorium.

Finally one bochur expressed his surprise.

“Rebbi, there are only four of us here.”

Reb Shlomo replied, “Do you think I’m speaking to you? I’m speaking to you and to your students and to your students’ students.” (Rav Yosef Chesny, Tiferes Yosef)

Long Friday nights have me sitting on the couch, a pile of seforim next to me as I peruse various maamarim to find ideas for my next column. The name Reb Shlomo Heiman caught my eye. I’d heard the anecdote before, but the maamar’s continuation perfectly paralleled my personal connection to Rav Shlomo Heiman ztz”l.

In the Haggadah, when discussing our redemption from Mitzrayim, we state, “Not only were our ancestors redeemed, we too were redeemed with them.” But we hadn’t even been even born yet! What does Yetzias Mitzrayim have to do with us?

The Maharal offers a phenomenal explanation. When Hashem redeemed us from Mitzrayim, He wasn’t only redeeming that generation, but the entire Jewish nation, including all future generations. Hashem had us, the Jewish Nation of 5780, in mind at that time.

Years ago, a Yerushalmi family arrived in New York — Yosef was a young father, recently widowed, together with his four orphaned children. His connection to this foreign country was a distant cousin, Rebbetzin Chaya Faigel Heiman, the widow of the esteemed Rav Shlomo Heiman.

It was two years after my grandmother had been killed in 1948. Two years in which my grandfather, reeling from the murder, had struggled to be both father and mother to his young children. Finally, his rav told him to take his family away from war-torn Eretz Yisrael, and Rebbetzin Heiman was one of those who aided his move.

My mother was a young girl of six. She spoke a beautiful Meah Shearim Yiddish, but knew not one word of English. Rebbetzin Heiman took my mother in, and for the next few years, until my grandfather remarried, she raised my mother as her own daughter.

The Heimans had never been blessed with children, but their home was filled with precious Yiddishe neshamos. Together they married off many orphans from the war, covering all expenses themselves. Even after the Rosh Yeshivah’s petirah, the Rebbetzin filled her home with orphans or out-of-own girls who were attending Bais Yaakov in New York. My mother was raised amid that love and warmth.

The Baal HaTurim explains that when Pharaoh asked Moshe who was going, he was challenging him: “Why are you so obsessed with the entire nation leaving? Only Yehoshua ben Nun and Kalev will actually enter Eretz Yisrael! Everyone else will perish in the desert.” (This is alluded to by the gematria of “Mi v’mi haholchim,” which is the same as the gematria of “Kalev u’ben Nun.”)

What was Moshe’s response? “With our children and our elders we will go.” Yes, the men between 20 and 60 will not enter Eretz Yisrael, but our children and elders will.

We see here a conflict of views between Moshe and Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s focus was on the current generation, emphasizing that they won’t enter Eretz Yisrael. Moshe’s view encompassed the bigger picture. There will be a Jewish Nation in Eretz Yisrael. We’re not merely focused on this generation — we’re focused on all future generations as well.

I read and reread this maamar several times, my thoughts racing. Here I was, a product of this very future. The Rosh Yeshivah and Rebbetzin may not have had any biological children. But I view myself as a pseudo-granddaughter of Rebbetzin Heiman. I’m always conscious of that connection and I daven that my family and its continued generations should be a source of nachas for her. Her past, I hope, continues with me and my future.

After all, I bear her name — Chaya Faigel.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 678)

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