One of the most popular phrases in Jewish life is L’dor V'dor – From Generation to Generation. In our Parsha this week, Haazinu, we find a source in the Torah for this phrase.
Moshe, our teacher, is giving his final discourse to the Israelites before expiring and ascending to the World of Truth. After receiving the Torah on Mt. Sinai and leading the Israelites for 40 years, he is giving them direction on how to navigate the hills and valleys of life. He directs the Israelites to take counsel and direction from parents as well as elders:
זְכֹר֙ יְמ֣וֹת עוֹלָ֔ם בִּ֖ינוּ שְׁנ֣וֹת דֹּר־וָדֹ֑ר שְׁאַ֤ל אָבִ֙יךָ֙ וְיַגֵּ֔דְךָ זְקֵנֶ֖יךָ וְיֹ֥אמְרוּ לָֽךְ׃
Remember the days of old, Consider the years of ages past; Ask your father, who will inform you, your elders, who will tell you.
Why does Moshe adjure us to seek counsel from both our parents as well as from our elders? Why not just one of them?
One could surmise it is because not everyone has a parent to ask, and not everyone has access to elders; so, for those who have access to parents, ask them; and those who have access to elders, ask them; and those who have both, ask both. Yet perhaps there is a deeper message here as well.
When parents share with us family history it is through a unique and particular lens including family history, traditions, and aspirations. When we learn from our elders, we hear a broader view of our communal and national history that we are a part of. To achieve the greatest perspective, it is important to learn both viewpoints.
This Shabbat is called Shabbat Shuva, the special Shabbat of the year for introspection, self-assessment, and resolve to do better in the year to come. In order to take a good look at ourselves, we need to see ourselves individually as well as part of our community and nation, because we are both individuals and part of our nation.
The late great Rabbi Yisrael Salanter (1809-1883) advised that a worthy strategy to employ when we approach Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the days of Judgment, is to make certain that we are of value to the world around us.
We live in a world that is very I/me-centric. Moshe and the Torah teach us that lives are best lived when we see the little picture as well as the big picture and while we do for ourselves, we must also do for the world around us.
Here at the Jewish Federation our rai·son d'ê·tre is to be there and take care of others in need, from preschoolers to seniors and everyone in between. On behalf of all of us here at Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey and our family of agencies, I want to wish you and yours a year of health, blessings, and fulfillment.
Community Scholar in Residence