If you are or ever have been a youth movement leader, you will know the feeling of a good peula. When the program runs smoothly, the aims are achieved, and the chanichim get what you're talking about.
Thank my lucky stars, our final program for year 11s this term was one of those programs, everything just came together so well. Cudos to Elana Hain who spearheaded writing the peula - it was all about Avraham Infeld’s notion of the 5 legged table. Basically, he's a Jewish educator who has this idea that Judaism is like a five-legged table, each table representing a core Judaic value. While the table is the most sturdy with five legs, it can also survive with four or even three, but on two legs it cannot stand. So in effect, one must subscribe to at least three of the core values, or the table will topple. The five legs are family, covenant, Hebrew, Israel, and memory.
(I know, as if we didn't have enough symbolism in Judaism already.)
He tells a story to explain what he means by memory - Infeld comes from a long line of physicists, but on his first day studying physics at university, a beautiful girl walked across to the History building, and thus he graduated with a masters in Jewish history. He recalls nervously phoning his father to announce he was changing courses, to which his father replied "WHAT?!?!" "They're teaching Jewish History, there's no such thing as Jewish history, there's Jewish memory!"
For this man, the exodus from Egypt was not history, he personally remembered holding his friend's hand as he gazed at the fish in the walls of sea on either side. The giving of the Torah was not history, he remembers picking a flower from har Sinai before running back to his mother to hear, for the first time, the voice of heaven. Due to the 'Phenomenon of Jewish Interconnectedness' (PoJI™), the entire Jewish narrative specifically happened to him, and it happened to us, not them, us.
As Rabbi Sacks puts it, the distinction between History (his story) and memory, is quintessential to the Jewish people. In this week's parasha the Torah implores us to "remember the days of old, consider the years of each generation."
What does it mean, consider the years of each generation?
Surely just saying 'remember the days of old' suffices.
The Menachem Tzion resolves this question by questioning the translation.
He says that the word for years "shonot" should, in fact, be translated into the changes - 'consider the changes for each generation.'
This adds a new level to how we experience the Jewish narrative. Not only must we feel as if we have experienced it, but we must consider the important changes and generational shifts that have occurred throughout the ages. There are significant differences between our community and the Jewish communities in the shtetls or any other Jewish community from another generation. Their challenges and our challenges are very different. By considering the changes in each generation, we find the ability to appropriately respond to the challenges of our modern Jewish community.
So we must hold our narrative in our heart, but not just the superficial narrative, this happened and then that happened. Rather we must understand the changes our nation has gone through, and the events that sparked those changes, so that we can have a greater understanding of our nation today
PS: If you're interested in the concept of the five-legged table, this website is dedicated to the theory: https://5leggedtable.com