I am sitting here writing this from Johannesburg where I am spending Pesach with my family and looking forward to working with members of Mizrachi South Africa while over here.
An 11 hour flight is never something to look forward to, especially when travelling with a young family. Thankfully, with the advances of in-flight entertainment, there is always something for them to watch –and for us as well. I found a real gem that I hadn’t seen in many years – Back to the Future.
I remember when it first came out over 30 years ago, it made a huge impact. We are all fascinated by the idea of time travel and the idea that one’s actions in the past can radically change the present. However, that idea is not science fiction.
Years ago, when I first became a Rabbi, parents of a 20 something came to see me with a problem – they were devastated, there son was dating a non-Jewish girl – and it was getting serious. Could I speak to their son to convince him to date Jewish. I told them I would be happy to meet their son but warned them that there was an almost zero possibility of me being able to change his mind.
The son came to see me, and immediately cut to the chase ‘Rabbi, I know why I am here, my parents are not happy I am dating a non-Jew, but what did they expect! We never had Shabbat in our home, we didn’t keep kosher, went to shul three times a year, and they are upset that I am dating non Jewish! What did they expect!’
I looked at him sadly and was 100% in agreement with him. What his parents failed to understand, is that the problem of intermarriage does not rear its ugly head at age 25 or later – it begins years, decades earlier when we either choose to move away from a Judaism that has no meaning to us or move away from a Judaism that we were never shown the way in.
As Back to the Future teaches us, the actions of the past can radically change the people we become. Had the parents of the young man in question given him a strong foundation in Judaism and brought him regularly to shul, taught and educated Jewish observances both inside and outside the home. I would venture that his path would have been very different and the meeting I would have had with him could have been asking me to officiate at his wedding with his kallah – alas that meeting never happened.
We involve ourselves in time travel this week, on Monday night we will go back to the past and imagine ourselves as if we went out. We are commanded ‘ B’chol dor v’dor, chayav Adam lirot et atzmo k’ilu hu yatza mi’mitzrayim. In every generation a person is obligated to see herself as if she went out of Egypt.’ To attach ourselves to the very birth of our nation, to attach ourselves to the Eternal truths that accompanied our ancestors from Mitzraim to Sinai and beyond.
Seder night is a tribute to the immortality of the Jewish people, who without sovereignty, or land, or police or army or anything resembling statehood – kept Jewish law voluntarily in exile for 2000 years. However, as Rabbi Sacks reminds us – we survived exile but can we survive homecoming, we survived slavery, can we survive freedom. The answer is yes, but only if we recognize what has kept us for those 2000 years – a devotion and commitment to God and Torah – there is no other way.
That devotion and commitment to ourselves and our children will allow us to remember the past like we will on Seder, in order to build the Jewish future.
In other words, we need to go Back for the future.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach
P.S looking forward to seeing you all at our Day of Inspiration at Kinloss on May 7th