Today, Erev Yom Tov, we celebrated the upherin of our dear son, Yitzchak. In conjunction, my son Efrayim and I made a siyum on mishnayos seder Nezikin. Here are the thoughts I shared at the event:
At any of these “lifecycle” events, I like to try and share a perspective on chinuch and the challenges that are faced and what lies ahead, hopefully with some relevant connections to other events of the day. The last Mishnah in Horayos lays out the hierarchy of kedushah within klal Yisrael. A kohein takes precedence over a levi, a levi over a Yisrael, a Yisrael over a mamzeir, and so on. However, the very last statement of our seder declares that this is only when all else is equal. A mamzeir who is a talmid chacham takes precedence over even a kohein gadol who is bereft of Torah knowledge.
The lesson this mishnah is teaching is a very poignant one, not only in the framework of yiddishkeit, but with regards to society in general. In life, there will always be those are imbued with some degree of advantage over another – those who are blessed with yichus, or an exceptional memory or financial or other stature, and those who are not. But the opportunity is always there for anyone to strive and overcome and fulfill their full potential, or even greater. Certainly, in the land(s) of opportunity in which we live, if we take a long hard look, we see that this is true. But as this mishnah is teaching, in yiddishkeit it is always true.
In truth, this idea can be found within the themes of Sukkos, as well. The four species we shake daily are quite an eclectic mix. We have the esrog, a fruit whose inherent beauty is so apparent, the Torah chose to name it simply by that trait – hadar. The lulav might be slightly less glorious but still quite majestic when it hangs from a palm tree. The hadassim are smaller yet still bright green and pleasant. And finally, we have the aravos which don’t boast any impressive features. Nevertheless, these four species come together and each one is dependent on the other. Even the sukkah itself is an embodiment of this idea. The Torah could have commanded us to create the temporary roof out of beautiful greenery. However, the gemara )Sukkah 12a) teaches us from the pasuk that we are instructed to use the pesoles, the waste we would otherwise throw away. This waste “rises above,” so to speak and becomes the very essence of the mitzvah we perform for a full week.
This is certainly an important lesson we wish to pass on to our son, Yitzchak, as he takes that next step in becoming a man, beginning to learn about and do more and more mitzvos, as well as a valuable lesson to take into the chag of Sukkos.