Seeing the future

The entire concept of reward and punishment is based on a concept that it is the future that counts most in life.

Rabbi Berel Wein,

Rabbi Berel Wein
Rabbi Berel Wein
pr

I have currently traveled to the United States on personal family matters. I have as of now not engaged in any public appearances and except for my daily, early forays to the synagogue for prayer services, I certainly intended to maintain a low profile while being here. However, a number of unexpected happy events have drawn me out of my intended private protective shell. During my years as a rabbi in Monsey, I founded and headed a yeshiva for young men. Over the twenty years that I was with the yeshiva, I knew and taught hundreds of young men. I was also privileged to train and ordain tens of them as rabbis.

When you knew someone as a thirteen or fourteen year old ninth grader and you now meet tha same person who is now married, a father with a successful career, a rabbi of a congregation or a lay leader of a community, it gives one a certain amount of pause. Is this really that same originally uninterested student that I once knew? Look how marvelously he has grown and developed, how respected and influential he has become!

What greater reward can a teacher achieve than seeing the future that he helped create become reality before his eyes?! Seeing potential in a child or in a student is really the greatest gift that a parent or teacher can possess. It is what one of the great rabbis in Avot meant when he said that “seeing the future, what is yet to come” is the greatest character trait that one can possess.

If we only saw the ninth grader not only as he is now but as what he will yet be when his potential becomes reality, how different our attitude and treatment of that child or student would be!

Being here in the USA has provided me the opportunity to see many of my former ninth graders fully grown and well achieved. There are many of these wonderful people that I am proud to say that I always believed would make it big in the general and Jewish world, and my expectations have not been disappointed. There are others whose potential was not apparent to me decades ago when they first entered the yeshiva. I did not appreciate the creativity that lay in their mischievous exploits, nor did I appreciate their different approach to life and friends.

There is a leading Torah educator that currently publicly boasts that he spent much of his high school years in “Rabbi Wein’s office.” Truthfully, I did not see that potential in him when he passively sat on the detention couch in my small office. He did not fit the preconceived mold of a Torah scholar that I then had.

In a conversation that I later had with that wisest of Jews, Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky he set me straight on the matter when he told me that a great Lithuanian rabbi was in his youth expelled from the yeshiva he was attending because he rode a goat into the classroom! He told me to never expel the mischievous one, the bane of all teachers who strive for necessary order in their classroom. Somehow try to see the future and not only the present.

Since none of us are gifted with prophecy but are always bound to present realities, it is truly difficult to see the future, particularly or generally. But oftentimes merely realizing that there is a future and not only a present, is itself a positive trait even if it is a frustrating accomplishment. It enables us to judge people, events and challenging situations from a wiser and more meaningful perspective.

There are many in this world that live only for the present, for instant gratification, without taking the future into account at all. But again, we are taught to live in the future rather than only in the present. The entire concept of reward and punishment is based on a concept that it is the future that counts most in life.

It is interesting to note that in monetary and certain physical matters (exercise, diet, etc.) people realize the primacy of the future over the present. It is in the realm of the spiritual and in the everyday interaction of judging and assessing people, especially young people, where we fall short of seeing the future. This is true of nations as well as of individuals. An eye to the future creates sound policies and wise decisions.




top