September 6, 2009

Nitzavim: Great Source(s)

…Rabbi Mordechai Joseph Leiner of Izbica interpreted the verse “Then the Lord your God will open up your heart and the hearts of your offspring to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul, in order that you may live (Deuteronomy 30:6) to indicate that God doesn’t want us to neutralize our passion, but to channel it into the service of committed, ethical, godly living. Only thus, claimed the nineteenth-century Hasidic master, can we model engaged, sanctified life that can enliven both us and our descendants.
— from “A Few Choice Gifts,” by Howard Avruhm Addison. p.294,
The Modern Men’s Torah Commentary

This essay focuses on “Fathers and children. Chains of transmission. What garments shall we bequeath to our sons and to our daughters who come after
us?” and includes an odd variety of sources, from AA meetings to the 1960s television show “The Addams Family” (differences accepted; parents passionate).

“A Few Choice Gifts” is specifically directed to men, as are most of the contributions to this volume. Its message of teshuva and transmission is not limited to men or parents, however. Addison concludes:

What mantle shall we pass down to our children? It should be woven of persistence and the possibility of transformation through teshuvah [return/repentance]. It should be woven passionately with the realization that through the alchemy of spirit, even what seems to be rotting straw can be spun into golden threads. It certainly cannot be purchased ready-made, but must be sewn throughout the years of active involvement, with all the trial and error that implies. Nitzavim promises us that the godliness we’d seek for ourselves and model for our children is as near as our hearts and our tongues, but only if we’re willing to act (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). As Robert Fulghum teaches, “Don’t worry that they [your children] don’t listen to you; worry instead that they are always watching you.”
— p.299, first bracket contains my addition; second, the author’s

“A Few Choice Gifts” earns extra points in my view as one of the most fully end-noted essays in the volume…. more sources to explore!


More on Addison
Addison teaches Jewish Spirituality at Temple University and has five graduate degrees himself, including a Doctor of Divinity from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, a D.Min. from the Chicago Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from the Graduate Theological Foundation. His published work includes two books on spiritual direction, one from a Jewish and one from an interfaith perspective.

More on Leiner
Those interested in learning more about R. Mordechai Joseph Leiner — AKA Ishbitzer Rebbe AKA Mei HaShiloach [Living Waters] after the title of his Torah commentary — can check out this Wiki page. Most web-based information about the Mei HaShiloach is offered by his followers, such as R. Betsalel Philip Edwards, who translated Mei HaShiloach into English.


See Source Materials for complete citations and additional references.

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Devarim, Hasidism, parenting

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