“When your son asks you tomorrow.” (Bo 13:14) Sometimes, “Machar”, tomorrow actually means now -the very next day-, and sometimes it refers to a later time. “When your son asks you tomorrow” refers to a later time. When it states “The sign will take place tomorrow” (in reference to the plague of the wild animals), it refers to the very next day. When it states “Tomorrow, I will stand on top of the hill” (which Moshe said to Yehoshuah at the war with Amalek), it means the very next day. When it states “Tomorrow, your children will say to to our children, ‘What have you to do with God, the Lord of Israel'”(Yehoshuah 22:24), it refers to the future, to a later time. (Midrash Tanchuma, Bo #13)
The way we react to things we expect will happen in the immediate future greatly differs from the way we approach things that we think might happen eventually. The Midrash, in going to a great length to explain the dual usage of the word “Machar”, “tomorrow”, is teaching us an important lesson.
The Torah can tell us: “The sign will take place tomorrow”, and, the very next day, all can witness the plague afflicting the Egyptians. Moshe can tell Yehoshuah: “Tomorrow, I will stand on top of the hill”, and indeed, the very next day, Moshe is standing on the mountain with his hands stretched up to the Heavens, as God delivers Amalek into the hands of the Children od Israel.
And, then, the verse can tell us: “When your son asks tomorrow”. “Machar”; it is the same word, it is the same expression of Truth. But are we waiting for our children to ask us fundamental questions as we were waiting for the plague of the wild animals, the day before it occurred? Are we as filled with trepidation when we think of answering their questions as we were when we were waiting excitedly for the miraculous unfolding of the war against Amalek? Or is the way we must address the future generations only a vague awareness? How seriously do we take the word “tomorrow” in this case? How real is it to us? How developed is our sense of urgency when we read this verse?
“When your son asks tomorrow”; it might not happen a day from now, but it will happen. Your son will ask. And you should be prepared to answer.