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Rabbi Altein

Links of the Golden Chain

by Rabbi Altein, June 9, 2011

Links of the Golden Chain
This coming Tuesday night, June 9, marks the beginning of Shavuot, the holiday that commemorates the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. On Wednesday morning, the first day of Shavuot, it is customary for every Jew, young and old, to listen to the reading of the Ten Commandments in synagogue. This is a most meaningful way to relive the event at Sinai, when all of Jewry heard G-d speak to them and say the Ten Commandments.

Not only was every single Jew that left Egypt present at Sinai, but also the souls of all Jews of future generations were also present and they all heard G-d speak to them. Thus the connection to Judaism is embedded within the hearts and souls of every Jew. But it takes study and hard work to become a knowledgeable Jew.

The key element to Jewish knowledge is transmission. Generation after generation has faithfully transmitted the Torah from parent to child and from teacher to student. Every Jew is a link of an unbroken golden chain that stretches from Sinai down through all of history.

The responsibility of our own generation to the continuity of Jewish life is truly awesome. The upheavals that Jews suffered during the previous century, especially the destruction of millions during the Holocaust, caused a horrible break in the chain of Jewish tradition. Many contemporary Jews lack the understanding of Jewish basics. So those that do know have the serious responsibility and tremendous privilege, to transmit their knowledge to others and ensure a secure Jewish future.

But Judaism is not about abstract knowledge. It is about putting that knowledge into practice by observing the 613 Mitzvot, the precepts of the Torah. A young man with a gifted intellect visited Rabbi S. Zalman, the first Rebbe of Chabad. This scholar had not used his knowledge to refine his personal character, so though extremely knowledgeable, he was also extremely conceited. He boasted to the Rebbe about all the areas of Jewish knowledge that he had mastered. And the Rebbe remarked, "You have only told me of how you have mastered the Torah, but not of how the Torah has mastered you!"

We cannot teach our children Jewish knowledge, if we do not take its lessons seriously. If we do not abide by the laws and teachings of Torah, then our children will see through us and will reject those teachings. Of course, we are not perfect; we are only human. But a parent can only be a true transmitter of Judaism, if he is a personal participant in Jewish life. The best way to teach is by example.

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