By Rabbi Levi Simon, Chabad of Greater Dayton
We have just celebrated Shavuot, the holiday that commemorates the giving of the Torah. In the Midrash, Rabbi Meir teaches that before the Holy One, Blessed Be He, gave the Torah to the Jewish nation, He asked them for a guarantor, one that would ensure that the Jewish people would never forsake His holy gift and that they would always cherish and follow its precepts and live in accordance to the Divine Will.
God needed assurance that the nation would always keep its identity and follow His Torah and Mitzvot.
The Jewish people first offered our holy ancestors as the guarantors that we would be faithful to the Torah. But God refused this. Next, we offered the Prophets, but again God refused. But then the Jewish people offered our children as guarantors, and this time God accepted.
Who will ensure Jewish continuity? What will our community look like in five, 10 or 20 years? God tells us there is only one thing that will keep us strong: not our history nor our leaders. The only assurance that we endure and thrive is our children.
Under the cruelest of circumstances our people have taught our children Torah. Despite all our ordeals, we have survived. Many will tell you that we survived not in spite of our Torah teaching, but because of it. Torah is the secret of our survival.
In the caves of Judea, the Maccabees taught Torah to Jewish children and then played dreidel to disguise their teachings from Greek patrols. If discovered, their crime was punishable by death, but this did not deter them.
In the mountains of the Golan, Rabbi Akiva taught Torah to Jewish children despite the threat of Roman oppression. Risking death was acceptable to him for if he were killed (which, in fact, he was) his students would survive and through them, the nation of Israel.
In the basements of Communist Russia, Torah study flourished even under the threat of gulag, exile and death. The Communist regime has fallen and the seeds sown in those basements have sprouted. Jewish communities and institutions now dot the entire former Soviet Union.
And it will continue through our efforts. It will continue because we won’t let it stop. It will continue because we will transmit to our children the love and the beauty of our heritage. It will continue because we will empower our children to carry it forward in life. It will continue in the next generation through the efforts of this generation.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s highest priority was the education of Jewish youths. He wrote, “There is a special goal which takes priority over all others and that is education. By educating people you are preparing the young leadership of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. Education is not a question of making someone who is not so learned more learned, someone who is not fluent more fluent, someone who is not charitable to become charitable or more charitable. Education now is a question of saving a soul, saving a human being, for the Jewish people. And saving him even for humanity.”