Down the Line by Rabbi Josh Kahn


When Joseph was seventeen years old, he joined his father Steven’s sewing accessory business.  Blessed with a bright mind, Joseph had great success expanding the business.  Joseph’s responsibilities grew each year, and he began traveling to more and more shows to sell the company’s merchandise.  These trips would always be one-day excursions, with Joseph always returning home at night. 

One day, Steven approached Joseph in the office and told him of a very important business deal for which he would like Joseph to represent the company.  The meeting was to take place in a far-off city, and Joseph would have to remain there for several days.  Joseph was very excited about the opportunity and did not seem bothered by the thought of being away for a few days.  The next morning, Joseph packed all of the business accessories he would need for the meeting, as well as clothing for the trip.  After the five hour train ride, Joseph went straight to the hotel to relax and unpack.  Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.  To Joseph’s total surprise, when he opened the door, he was greeted by his father. 

Joseph immediately asked his father, “Is everything okay at home?”

“Thank G-d, everything is fine,”  Steven replied.

“Well then, did I forget some of the important papers I needed for the deal?”  Joseph inquired.

Once again, Steven reassured him, “No, son you packed it all.”

Curious, Joseph asked, “Then why did you travel five hours to come all the way here?”

“I believe in your haste to pack, you forgot your Tallit,” Steven explained. 

Joseph was embarrassed and amazed that his father would travel five hours to bring his son the Tallit he had forgotten.

This meaningful story, retold by Rabbi Paysach Krohn (In the Footsteps of the Maggid, p. 148-150), has an even more unbelievable follow-up that demonstrates the impression Steven made on his son.  Joseph’s grandson is a respected Mashgiach in a major Yeshivah, and he told Rabbi Krohn that his grandfather recently went to Israel and brought special gifts for each of his grandsons.  They each received a beautiful Tallit.

In Parshat Vayeilech, the Torah tells us (Devarim 31:19), “And now, write this song for yourselves.”  “This song” is a reference to the Torah (see the Rambam, who quotes this Pasuk as the obligation for each individual to write a Sefer Torah).  Why is the Torah referred to as a song? 

A song may conjure up images of beauty, serenity, and joy.  If the Torah is viewed as a song, and even more, a song we each write for ourselves, then the second half of the Pasuk will flow naturally: “And teach the Jewish people to place it in their mouth in order that this song will be a witness for Bnei Yisrael.”

How can we ensure a proper transmission of the Torah?  If it is like a song to us, sung with joy and enthusiasm, then it will certainly be passed along to our children. 

As Rav Paysach Krohn illustrated, modeling a joyful performance of Mitzvot and demonstrating a love for the opportunity we have to observe these Mitzvot and learn Torah will leave an indelible imprint on our children.

May we all merit to approach Torah and Mitzvot in this joyous way and transmit this tradition in its fullest to our children.

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