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Midot Hayom: Day 17: Tiferet in Tiferet

“Apply yourself to Torah study for it is not yours by inheritance.” Don’t say: Since my father and ancestors were Torah scholars, I will inherit their learning without studying. When Moshe saw that his sons, relying on his merit, did not apply themselves to Torah and therefore might not succeed him as leaders, he wrapped himself in his cloak, praying, “Master of the Universe, let me know who will lead these people.” The Holy One, Blessed is He, replied, “Take Joshua. Establish an interpreter for him, letting him expound the laws to the great sages of Israel in your presence, so no one will question his authority.” At that point Moshe said to Joshua, “This people that I am handing over to you are not goats, buts kids; they are not sheep, but lambs, for they are not well-versed in the commandments, and they have not yet become full-grown goats and sheep.” Avot of Rabbi Nathan 17:3


The Sages contrast the Moshe’s children who assumed that they did not have to work as hard as others in order to succeed with the Children of Israel who are described by Moshe as kids and lambs despite having Moshe as a teacher for 40 years. It is easier to understand Moshe’s children than it is to understand how Israel had yet to grow into full-grown sheep and goats. How could they still be kids and lambs after living for so long in the presence of Moshe, the Mishkan, and Manna, Water from a Rock, the Clouds of Glory, constant miracles, and the great sages of Israel? The Sages are hinting that the two, the mistaken assumptions of Moshe’s sons and the failure to thrive of the Children of Israel are related.

We cannot simply rely on our environment to nurture our spiritual development. We must be active participants in developing the environment for it to be effective. We cannot assume that our children will be observant because they grew up in a religious neighborhood. People should not feel that they are protected from negative external influences because they live in a positively nurturing setting.

We have to contribute to the stability and structure of our surroundings. We must be involved in our children’s schools, in our synagogues, in our places of learning, and most of all in our homes. Neither spouse nor parent can rely solely on the other to create the proper atmosphere for our family.

It is proper to use this day of the Omer to evaluate our contribution to our environment; our homes, schools, synagogues and broader community.

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