It was late at night in the Bochnia Ghetto when the Bilgoray Rav, zy”a, came to the apartment where a mother of two young children was staying. He had been sent by his famed brother, the Belzer Rav, zy”a, Harav Aharon.
“The Rav is calling you,” the Bilgoray Rav said.
The woman took her two sons and made her way quickly through the streets to the house where the Belzer Rav was residing.
The Rebbe was about to flee to Hungary, and wished to express his gratitude to the young mother who had procured chalav Yisrael milk on his behalf. When she entered his room, the Rebbe told her to state her request for a blessing.
She replied using two words. “Gutte doros — good generations.”
Those present thought she had lost her sanity. The Nazis had already massacred many of their brethren, and the Jews of the ghetto were well aware that their lives were in grave danger. This was a time to plead for survival, and yet all this woman thought of was good generations.
The revered Rebbe put his handkerchief over the heads of the two little boys, placed his holy hands on top and gave the brachah that had been requested.
The woman — Rebbetzin Bronia Spira, a”h, later known as the Bluzhever Rebbetzin — merited to see this blessing come to fruition, and her two sons, the present Bluzhever Rebbe, shlita, and Harav Yitzchak Eluzer Spira, have each merited to see the blessing come true in their children and grandchildren.
It is customary in many communities to eat various types of fruits on 15 Shevat, a day that Chazal tell us is the “Rosh Hashanah for the trees.” The Ruzhiner Rebbe, zy”a, related that he knew a tzaddik in Russia who would don a kittel before davening on this day and daven with the tunes of Rosh Hashanah; since man is compared to a tree, it is a Rosh Hashanah for people as well.
It is also an appropriate time to concentrate on davening to Hashem that all of Klal Yisrael merit good fruits — gutte doros.
It has been noted that on 15 Shevat, when the trees are being judged, fruits are consumed. On Shavuos, when the fruits are judged, it is customary that twigs of trees are placed and hung in shuls and homes.
One would have imagined that the customs would have been reversed — that on Shavuos the fruits would be eaten and on 15 Shevat the trees would be displayed.
The Satmar Rebbe, zy”a, once gave the following pertinent explanation:
When “fruits” are judged, a key consideration is what the “tree” is like. More is demanded and expected from children whose parents were pious, devout individuals than from a person who parents weren’t so up to par. When “trees” are judged, the fruits are taken into consideration as well. Virtuous children provide great merits for their parents and mentors.
Our Gedolim have taught us that there are many aspects of our requisite hishtadlus in regard to “good generations.” All is dependent on siyatta diShmaya, and a key part of our hishtadlus is tefillah and tears.
Much of chinuch is about setting the right example, and transmitting the warmth and beauty of our glorious mesorah to the next generation.
It also involves recognizing the specific challenges of our generation, of dealing directly with issues and not sweeping them under the carpet.
It is also about showering children with our attention and love.
Harav Elchanan Wasserman, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah of Baranovich, like virtually all Gedolei Torah, was famed for his hasmadah. He once expressed regret that the shoes he wore had laces — for he felt he was wasting precious seconds from learning as he tied them!
Near Rav Elchanan’s house lived a four-year-old boy who liked to collect empty matchboxes. (At that time, matchboxes were not used to light matches, and once empty, were not dangerous for children.) Whenever a box of matches was used up, Rav Elchanan would put it away for the boy. At regular intervals the young child would come to Rav Elchanan to get “his” boxes.
On several occasions, Rav Elchanan was in the middle of giving a shiur in his home when the child walked in. “Rebbe, ah pushkele (a box),” he would request. To the amazement of the talmidim gathered there, Rav Elchanan would interrupt the shiur and walk into the kitchen where he kept the empty matchboxes. With a smile, he would hand a box to the beaming little boy, who would leave the house ecstatic over his good fortune.
It would seem that Rav Elchanan felt that to show love to a Jewish child — and to make a four-year-old happy — was well worth his precious time…
It is well worth our time as well.