L’dor Vador: ‘From Generation to Generation’ is a common statement in Judaism, indicating that traditions are handed down in that manner, shared like spiritual chicken soup to nourish body and soul.
I grew up in a family in which my maternal grandmother was one of 13 children. One of her sisters was named Miriam and she had a son named Ron who with his wife Gladys had three sons named Rick, Steve and Ted. Rick married Melissa and they have two children Gabriel and Sophia. It is the young man who was named for his grandmother Gladys who died 15 years ago (and the archangel Gabriel who figures prominently as a messenger from God in three major religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam), who also figures prominently in this story.
As I am writing this, likely my 13 year old cousin Gabe and his family are resting after a momentous occasion, because today is the day he became a Bar Mitzvah. (translates from Hebrew as “son of the commandment” and considered to be an adult member of the congregation, responsible for his own relationship with God). This curly haired slim young man with a shy smile that likely covered a sense of mischief, stood before the congregation, his family and friends and took his place in a long line of newly minted teens who crossed that threshold and recited prayers that echo back from thousands of years ago.
The Torah portion he chanted was called Beshalach and recalled the story of the Exodus of the Jews who were held as slaves in Egypt. The rabbi offered an explanation prior to Gabe stepping forward, that when the Jews came to the Red Sea, they had two choices, to move ahead into the churning waters with full faith that they would emerge safely or turn back to the lives they had known in Mitzrayim (another name for Egypt: translated as ‘narrow straits). This to me indicates sometimes self imposed constriction based on fear. One man named Nahshon, was said to be the first to enter the Red Sea, continuing to move past his likely terror that the water would swallow him, until it reached his nose and then it miraculously parted….the sea, not his nose:)
I sat with the congregation. filled with delight and flowing with tears as I witnessed Gabe’s triumph. Years of practice, not only in the classroom and synagogue, but in his daily life, prepared him for this day. He had a special mitzvah (good deed ) project to complete and it was in perfect synch with his interest in sports and willingness to do service. Melissa works in the Philadelphia School District and had told Gabe about a lack of sports equipment at her school and how there were many children who fought on the playground as a result. So Gabe; avid athlete that he is, knew that his project was to collect gently used sports equipment to offer to the school. I think he said, all told, he collected 100 balls, jump ropes, hoola hoops and other assorted items. He was able to present them to the school and heard feedback about what a difference it had made. A bonus was the realization of how blessed he and his friends are to have access to sports equipment and activities.
Clearly, the values handed down from previous generations have landed solidly in this one. Mazel Tov, Gabe! What a mensch you are.
L’dor Vador by Josh Nelson