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 The Lord blessed me last week with the birth of a great-grandson. As I began writing this article I almost slipped and wrote “another” great-grandson. I have been blessed many times over with becoming a great-grandfather. But I caught myself and did not write “another” great-grandchild because the birth of every great-grandchild is unique and special. I come from a generation where I and my peers barely knew grandparents and no one ever imagined seeing a great- grandparent.

The fact that great-grandparenthood is almost taken for granted in our current society is really one of the momentous miracles of our time. Much of this achievement has to do with the great strides in medical care and resultant increases in longevity occasioned by these medical advances. But there is also an element of spiritual mystery, which plays a role in the likelihood of seeing a fourth generation in one's family.
As the bonds of societal cohesion continue to loosen in our time, it has become ever more imperative that family relationships and influences be strengthened. The family is the last and strongest fortress for developing character, morals, tradition and proper role models for children and later generations.
A child who sees and interacts with grandparents and great-grandparents can gain a greater perspective on life and its events than what the child would gain on its own without the input of generations. The Torah implies that Menasheh and Ephrayim became equal members of the tribes of Israel due to the fact that they were to a great extent raised and influenced by their grandfather Yaakov.
The Western world today suffers from a breakdown of family bonds and generational relationships.  Declining rates of marriage, increased incidence of divorce and single parenting, personal mobility and the anonymity afforded by current urban life, all have contributed to vexing societal problems. In all relationships within a family, a steadying hand and role model must be present.
This necessary ingredient for family stability can and should be provided by older generations present in that family. Grandparents should not interfere in the arrangements and marriages of their children’s children.  That is the responsibility of the actual parents who are raising those grandchildren.
Nevertheless, grandparents, by their presence, provide an example and can make great contributions to the welfare and wisdom of their later generations. It is difficult to assess what the true impact of previous generations have upon their descendants. But, I feel that it is abundantly clear that there is such an impact and that it can be a most positive one.
How to create such an impact requires a complex and delicate blend of unconditional love, sound advice, patience, and wise silence and abiding faith in the ability of future generations to right the ship no matter how unlikely it presently looks.
All of these ingredients for family stability and Jewish continuity can be supplied by grandparents and great-grandparents. So, the birth of a grandchild or a great-grandchild is not only to be treated as a moment of joy and personal accomplishment but it is also to be seen as an opportunity and a challenge to yet play a significant role, even at an advanced age, in the structure and traditions of Jewish family life.
The Torah makes special mention of great-grandfatherhood when it remarks that the grandchildren of Joseph were raised on the knees of Yaakov. One of the many terrible consequences of the Holocaust has been the disruption in the chain of generations.
Knowing the past generations is somehow a crucial and necessary component for Jewish survival. The same pending disaster is true for the wave of assimilation and intermarriage savaging Western Jewish society today. My old wise teacher in the yeshiva long ago would say to us: “Boys, if your grandparents and your grandchildren are both proud of you, then you are probably alright.”
I may not have truly appreciated the wisdom of his remarks when I was in my adolescent years but I certainly understand them well now. Part of the turmoil in Jewish life today, especially here in Israel, lies in the fact that the new generation senses, that somehow their forbearers took a wrong turn somewhere. Now they are looking for a way to get back to the correct road in Jewish life. Generations are a great challenge in Jewish life. They are certainly a blessing. But like all blessings, generations require care and nurturing, appreciation and watchful guarding.  
Shabat shalom
Berel Wein 

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