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Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

by R. Aharon Ziegler

In Mishna Eduyot (2:9), Rabbi Akiva states: “Ha-av zocheh la-bein, be-noy, u-veko’ach, u-ve’osher, u-ve’chachma, u-veshanim” [A father transmits to his son his physical features, his strength, his wealth, his wisdom and his longevity] and “Mispar ha-dorot lefanav, ve-hu ha-keitz“, [and the number of generations before him]. Rabbi Akiva then adds: “and this is the secret of Ge’ulah, [redemption].”

What all this means, according to Rav Soloveitchik, is that the father is the bridge, the link between son and grandparents, and to all previous generations dating from Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov. Grandfathers and grandchildren, though members of different generations, are part of one fraternity club— the Mesorah community. Jews of the past, present, and future are united in their commitment to the Divine teachings of the Torah and to the historic destiny of the Jew. One collegial fraternity exists of Moshe Rabbeinu, R’ Akiva, the Rambam, the Vilna Gaon, the Ba’al Shem Tov, and others, joining hands with grandfathers, parents, and children of all generations.

As the Jewish child is born, he is absorbed into the Mesorah community. He will, hopefully, speak our language, study our sefarim, share our dreams and adopt our ideals. Rashi will be his lifelong companion in Torah study, as he is ours. When this is achieved, a Mesorah relationship between grandfather and grandchild contains an emotional intensity and intellectual closeness that transcends the secular parent-child relationship. The child is more than a biological extension; he embodies one’s hopes for spiritual continuity.

This is the idea of “Mispar ha-dorot lefanav.” Parents transmit to their children the secret of uniting with past generations and the ability to associate with distant historical figures, intellectually and emotionally, as if they were contemporaries. And “Ve-hu ha-keitz,this is the secret of redemption.” He who can proclaim an identity with the generations from the beginning will bring about the final redemption of the Jewish people.

About Aharon Ziegler

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Agudath Achim of Boro Park and the Dean and Rosh Kollel of Kollel Agudath Achim. He is the author of six volumes of Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

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