Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Judaism's Top 40: Elul 16 - #26 in the countdown: L'dor Va-dor: Connecting Generations

L'dor va dor - Connecting Generations

The Hebrew word dor, generation, appears often in the Bible as well as in Hebrew prayers, particularly in the form of dor l’dor or dor va-dor, from generation to generation.   

The idea of transmission of our tradition from one generation to another has resonated to the point where that itself becomes a prime Jewish value - even eclipsing for some the content of that tradition itself.  A claim can be made that simply to transmit a body of knowledge, belief or practice to the next generation, without regard for the content of that body - is unsustainable.  

But in the post Holocaust era, where so many questions cloud the future of Judaism and the Jewish people - questions both theological and demographic - and at a time where change is so frenetic, it makes some sense simply to keep the fires burning for another generation or two in the hopes that at some point in the future those questions might be answered.   Intergenerational transmission is especially powerful for Jews because to a large degree, immortality is measured not in the survival of the individual soul, but in the survival of the Jewish people as a whole.  A great example of this is the Passover Seder which includes the invocation that “in every generation (b’chol dor vador) all people (not just Jews) must see themselves as if they had experienced the Exodus from in Egypt - or on Hanukkah, when we sing in “Mi Yemalel,” “In every generation a hero arises to save our nation.”

The expression “dor va dor” has given rise to some great songs, including this one by Josh Nelson:

We are gifts and we are blessings, we are history in song
We are hope and we are healing, we are learning to be strong
We are words and we are stories, we are pictures of the past
We are carriers of wisdom, not the first and not the last

L'dor vador nagid godlecha
L'dor vador... we protect this chain
From generation to generation
L'dor vador, we will praise Your name

Looking back on the journey that we carry in our heart
From the shadow of the mountain to the waters that would part
We are blessed and we are holy, we are children of Your way
And the words that bring us meaning, we will have the strength to say

Click here for prior listings in the countdown and an explanation of what "Judaism's Top 40" is all about

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