We seem to be a generation obsessed with recording our life story. Everyone is constantly trying to “capture the moment” in selfies, on Instagram, Facebook, etc., so that we can share our personal journey with friends and family, near and far. It’s the age of techno-storytelling!
Yet haven’t Jews always been story-tellers? Only the method has changed over time. We just finished retelling the story of our ancestors through the Haggadah and we continue to share our present-day stories through the medium of technology. During Passover we recount where we came from – literally, and counting the Omer points us in the direction of where we need to be going – figuratively. With the Seders behind us, we’re now embarked on a 49-day spiritual journey that takes us from Egypt to Mt. Sinai, from the hardship of slavery to receiving the Torah and our religious freedom.
It is said that you can’t know where you are going unless you know where you have come from… The importance of telling our story has never been more crucial then now, on Holocaust Memorial Day, as we recall the darkest period in our recent history, when our very existence was almost obliterated. Each year during Yom-Hashoah V’ Hagevura it becomes essential that we 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 and share their stories so that the world cannot minimize or deny. It is now our job to carry forth their mantle so that the world will always remember.
Pirkei-Avot instructs us: Lo hamidrash ha-ikkar, elah hama’aseh, “words are not the essence; actions are.” This is such a powerful lesson to remind ourselves and to model for our children; that our actions speak to what our values and our core beliefs are, and that we are judged by what we do rather than by what we say. We all know that our children learn by watching us and that they emulate our behavior. The month of Iyar is filled with meaningful commemorations, created to mark seminal events in our recent history; Yom-Hashoah, Yom-Hazikaron, Yom-Haatzmaut. While many events demand our attention, just showing up to attend these important ceremonies speak volumes about where our principles and passions reside.
This month is ripe with opportunities for us to demonstrate our collective support for the state of Israel and for keeping the memory of the Six Million alive through our actions and not just our words. By attending these events, our words and our deeds are truly aligned.
As we count the days of the Omer until Shavuot when we accept the Torah, we make a choice that only free people can make. The Torah is our blueprint for a lifetime of freedom, granted to us after taking our collective and personal journey. Yet, we know that true freedom doesn’t happen in an instant. Rather, attaining freedom is a long and laborious process. As the Slonimer-Rebbe teaches – while G-d 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 towards freedom, both spiritual and religious.
This period of the counting of the Omer, is an awesome time of potential for inner growth – each day bringing us a step closer in the right direction – as we strive to improve ourselves through introspection, reflection, and development of our best attributes.
May we all continue to learn how to make our lives more meaningful by focusing on our deeds and on being our best selves. And may we all strive to continue to model good deeds to our children and to each other, so that we can lead by example, as we continue to share our stories.
Dr. Tani Foger Ed.D, LPC is a psychologist and educational consultant, as well as the founder of “Let’s Talk” Guidance Workshops — Conquering the Challenges in Our Lives.