This week's parsha
The first Jewish President of America was elected.
Naturally, his first step was to call his Mother:
"Mama, I've won the elections, you've got to come to the inauguration!"
"I don't know. What would I wear?"
"Don't worry, Mama, I'm going to be president, I can send you a personal dressmaker"
"But I only eat kosher food"
"Mama, I am going to be the president, I can get you kosher food"
"But how will I get there?"
"I'll send Air Force One! The President can do these things! Just come mama"
"Ok, if it makes you happy."
The great day arrives and Mama is seated between the Supreme Court Justices and the Future Cabinet members. She nudges the gentleman on her right. "You see that boy, the one with his hand raised? His brother's a doctor!"
Yiddishe nachas is one of the most precious commodities we have. It is very hard to define nachas. Pride? A warm, glowing feeling? A feeling of satisfaction, of joy?
What is true nachas? When can we really feel that we have raised our children with the values that we cherish and kept Jewish continuity going? This week's Torah reading tells us -- education. Not just any education, Jewish education.
The Shema prayer, a fundamental prayer in Jewish liturgy, tells us, "You shall teach these words [Torah] to your children, vedibarta bam.. (and speak of them)." The late Rabbi Isaac Bernstein, of Finchley United Synagogue in England, commented on the Hebrew phrase bam ("of them") used in the above quotation. The usual explanation is that it refers to the words of the Torah. Rabbi Bernstein offers an alternative explanation, that "them" could mean your children -- "you shall teach Torah to your children." and subsequently "you shall speak [proudly] of them."
When we succeed in imparting our heritage to the next generation, we can truly take pride and speak of our children with glowing praise and nachas.
It does not happen by osmosis. Each of us has a responsibility to educate others in our rich shared heritage. If it is not your own children, why not somebody else's? Especially if you can help one who is unable, due to time or an absence of education on their own part, to take on this task. It is a gift whose effect will continue to last for generations to come.
When we see the next generation, our own children and others, carrying on the ways of their ancestors, we see that Judaism is not just alive but vibrantly alive and burning bright for the future generations. This is true, Jewish naches, pride.