L’dor vador

L’dor vador nagid godlecha. From generation to generation, we will tell Your greatness.

This beautiful text from the Amidah reminds us of the duty, privilege, and joy of communicating our religious tradition to our children. It goes on to say: For all time we will proclaim Your holiness. Your praise, o G-d, will never depart from our lips. Blessed is HaShem, the holy G-d.

The texture and quality of this communication across generations is never far from my mind, either. I happily struggle with questions of how to transmit this tradition, of which my own knowledge is extravagantly incomplete. I happily struggle to provide my children with a deeper experience of Jewish tradition than I received as a child, in the age-old hope that their achievements might surpass my own. If in their learning and love for Judaism they feel an abiding sense of ownership and satisfaction, I will be glad. And if they view my life as an example of engaging in lifelong learning and exploration of Torah, I will be doubly glad.

This afternoon I had the honor of singing a solo in the beautiful Meir Finkelstein setting of L’dor vador, in a concert with the Zamir Chorale of Boston. Tickets to our concerts are normally out of my price range, especially to risk bringing squirmy kids who might not be able to stay through the end. Today’s concert, though, was at Hebrew Senior Life, a Jewish nursing home, and was a free event, and so I decided to ask Bill to bring the boys.

In preparation for my solo, I asked my 11-year-old son Akiva to translate the text for me. And in the concert, we sang it to a multi-generational group, many of whose members were visibly engaged in and moved by the performance. There were wistful smiles and a few tears, quickened movements and peaceful settling. The experience of sharing music across the generations is so much more than singing notes and words.

The experience, also, of telling G-d’s greatness across generations was there, and it flowed in both directions. In singing this piece in particular, I had the opportunity to share — and perhaps reawaken — a love of Jewish tradition and a connection to G-d, with an audience whose access to the beautiful world is limited by their circumstances and their infirmities. And in learning this song’s meaning from my beloved son, I received his youthful but no less ardent wisdom — and then received from him (and his sweet brother) the appreciation of hearing it sung and interpreted.

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