Addressing high-ranking officials during his inaugural speech on May 19, 2019, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, “I don’t want my portraits to hang in your offices, because the president is not an icon or an idol. Hang pictures of your children there and look them in the eyes before every decision.”
Reading these wise words, I was reminded of a beautiful account shared in the Midrash:
When Israel stood to receive the Torah, the Holy One said to them, "I am prepared to give you my Torah. Present to me good guarantors that you will observe and study the Torah and I shall give it to you."
They said: "Our ancestors are our guarantors."
The Holy One said: "Your ancestors are not sufficient guarantors. Bring Me good guarantors, and I shall give you the Torah."
They said: "Our prophets are our guarantors."
The Holy One said: "The prophets are not sufficient guarantors. Bring Me good guarantors and I shall give you the Torah."
They said: "Indeed, our children will be our guarantors."
The Holy One said: "Your children are good guarantors. For their sake, I give the Torah to you."
A friend of mine who became more Jewishly observant later in life explained that his shift towards tradition was inspired by a statement he heard that resonated deeply, “More important than how Jewish your grandparents were is the question of how Jewish your grandchildren will be.”
Success in any area of life demands careful and strategic planning. Without a mission statement and a business plan, any enterprise will inevitably flounder and fail. This is true of civilizations, countries, businesses, careers, relationships, and personal fulfillment in life.
In the words of philosopher Thomas Merton: People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.
The festival of Shavuot, celebrated this year on June 5-6, 2022, is our annual reminder that the same is true when it comes to building a Jewish family and legacy as well. Nothing can be taken for granted when it comes to the single greatest blessing in life: Nachas from our loved ones.
Inspired by G-d’s message to the Israelites 3334 years ago, if you haven’t yet done so, I invite you to sit down with your significant other and draft a family plan dedicated to answering the question - and creating a plan - for just how Jewish your grandchildren will grow up to be. This is the surest way to ensure that the family trees we cherish so deeply will continue to grow upward and outward, blooming and blossoming into fruitful generations to come.
As you are reading this, you might be thinking to yourself, ah, this is a nice thought, and you may go on to the next article. So, stop, grab a pen and paper and start planning today for your Jewish tomorrow. Plant today, and you shall reap tomorrow.