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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

We’re a generation obsessed with narrating our life’s story. Everyone seems to be constantly trying to capture the moment, to share their story with friends and family, near and far, via Instagram, Facebook, selfies, etc. This is the age of techno-storytelling. Yet, haven’t the Jewish people always been storytellers? Only, it seems, our methods have changed. While we share the story of our ancestors through the Haggadah, we now share our personal stories through the medium of technology. Vehigadta levincha, we are commanded to tell our story to our children so that they will tell it to the next generation, and so on and so forth. Passover is when we recount the story of our past, of where we came from, while counting the Omer points us in the direction toward where we need to be going—a 50-day journey that leads us from Egypt to Har Sinai, from the hardship of slavery to receiving the Torah and our spiritual freedom!

The importance of telling our story has never been more imperative than now, as we recall the darkest period in our recent history, when our freedom and our very existence was almost obliterated. During Yom-Hashoah V’ Hagevurah, Holocaust memorial day, it becomes evident that we must tell and retell the stories of survivors—of their heroism and their indomitable spirit. We must remember the lives they re-built when all was taken from them. We must share their stories so that the world cannot deny, and therefore it is incumbent upon each one of us to carry forth their mantle and ensure that the world will always remember.

Pirkei Avot famously teaches us: Lo hamidrash ha-ikkar, elah hama’aseh, “Words are not the essence; actions are.” We try to teach our children that actions speak louder than words, that we are judged by what we do rather than by what we say. As such, our actions speak to what our values and our core beliefs are. We know that our children learn important lessons from watching us and our deeds. This month of Iyar is filled with significant commemorations created to mark seminal events in our recent history: Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron, Yom Ha’atzmaut. Many opportunities exist for us to demonstrate for our children our collective support for the State of Israel and Klal Yisrael through our deeds and not just our words, for example: keeping the memory of the six million alive, fighting BDS, teaching Israel advocacy to prepare our students as early as possible to meet the challenges they will face up ahead on college campuses (perhaps even as early as middle school) and pursuing justice for others wherever we see injustices being perpetrated. May we continue to lead our children by example.

We count the days of the Omer from Pesach until Shavuot, when we accepted the Torah and made a choice that only free people can make. The Torah is our pathway toward a lifetime of freedom, granted to us after taking our collective and personal journey. As we are all aware, true freedom doesn’t happen in an instant. Rather, attaining freedom is a long and difficult process. The Slonimer Rebbe teaches that while God brought us physically out of the Land of Egypt, it is now up to each of us, individually, to embark on our own personal inner journey toward freedom, both spiritual and religious. This period of the counting of the Omer is a time of potential for inner growth—when we each can strive to improve on our good middot through reflection and development of our best attributes. May we learn how to make our lives more meaningful as we focus on our deeds and on being our best selves. May we all merit to model middot tovot, good deeds, to our children and to each other.

Dr. Tani Foger is the principal at Yeshivat He’Atid.