February 21, 2020, Pacific Kosher Restaurant, California
Old friends are truly a blessing. They remember you when you were young and they remember family members and friends who are no longer. Old friends are a priceless treasure. Now when such friends are also rabbis and teachers the blessings are magnified. So it was with great pleasure that I met my dear friend and teacher Rabbi Zvi Block. As is our custom we met at the daily prayers in the synagogue which he founded, so many years ago. This synagogue has on its walls names of my family, my relatives, my father, in whose honor donations were made.
After the prayers we spoke to one of the local rabbis, exchanging stories and Torah/Bible lessons. The soul rejoices.
We went out for breakfast, chatted and caught up. But of course words of Torah, Biblical lessons, are the part of any and every discussion. Once again my teacher, my friend, enlightened me with a profound lesson.
Over coffee he said, Moshe, remember the words of the opening of chapter 6, the reading of "WaEra" (and I appeared). Of course. He continued; And the verse says I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And then Rashi (Biblical commentator Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki, 1040 -1105, Troyes, France) explains in one word, Avoth, the Fathers.
"and God spoke to Moshe and said to him, I am God. and I appeared to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob as El Shaddai (God Almighty) but by true name I did not make myself known to them." (Exodus, Chapter 6, verses 2-3)
So Rabbi Block asks, Why did Rashi need to say this? of course we know that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are our founding fathers. Every child knows this. Why did Rashi need to tell us this, in one word, "Fathers"?
Here is the answer. The Hebrew word, Avoth, Fathers, also means Founders, those who can see, the Visionaries. the verse continues but I did not become know to them...
Rabbi Block continued, Moshe our teacher was the greatest leader of them all but he was not the Visionary that the Fathers were. They did not see the great miracles, the revelations that Moshe saw and experienced but yet they believed. They believed in the Vision, in the dream, in the future despite the fact that I did not become known to them. That is the definition of a true visionary, to see and follow the dream even if one will not fulfill it in his own lifetime, even if one will not see immediate results. A visionary, is a game changer; he changes the course of history.
Rabbi Aharon Kotler, of blessed memory, was born in Belarus in 1891, he witnessed the destruction of European Jewry and wanted to create a European type Yeshiva, higher rabbinical academy, in America after the war. No one believed it could be done. No one believed that type of education would ever take root in America. when he died in 1962 there were at its height 200 students, today there are over 6,700. That is a visionary.
The rabbi asked, why did the great Rabbi Yizhaki (Rashi) need to point out that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are our fathers? This fact is obvious! It is to point out that they were not only our biological fathers but our Founders, our Visionaries, those who did not seek immediate gratification or results but looked beyond themselves, beyond their lifetimes. They moved forward without doubt, without question, without hesitating. This is what it means to be a Visionary and this is the subtle lesson for us in one word written over 900 years ago in France.