Tell Us Your Story……

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Attention grandparents, parents, and anyone who has memories to share: Please write your memoir. Please tell us your story.

Once upon a time, when the world used to change in slow-motion, memoirs didn’t play the role they must today. Children identified with the world their parents grew up in—for the most part, it was the same world.

Today the world is evolving at such a rapid pace. Children are educating their moms and dads, teaching them how to maneuver in the book-less, mail-less, cord-less (respect-less?) era we live in. The children are the teachers; their parents are the under-average students (“Um, how do I use this gadget, son?”). A topsy-turvy society.

Amidst all this, we need stability. We need tradition. We need roots. We need parents, who, although they can’t beat us in computer games (don’t even try), can teach us how to be human and how to be Jewish. They are our link in the chain starting with Abraham and stretching through four millennia, from the Fertile Crescent to the Modern World.

We need parents, who, although they can’t beat us in computer games, can teach us how to be human and how to be JewishThat is why we beg you: Tell us about the home you grew up in, relate the stories your parents reminisced about their upbringing. Tell us about the trolleys in the Lower East Side and the ingenious antics of uncle Hymie, the Europe of old and the Siberian cold. Tell us of a time when people spoke to people, not to radioactive machines, when friends were people you chatted with, not the ones whom you press “accept” on Facebook. Take us into your world.

There is nothing that builds a relationship between parent and child more than an open conversation in which the parent opens up to his or her child, bringing the human dimension to the often un-sentimentality of the home environment. Sitting on Papa’s or Grandma’s lap eating cookies and sipping milk while listening to stories of a world bygone is the glue that cements the link of generations.

And one more thing: Please write down your stories as well. Your kids don’t care about the broken English, the lack of prose, or the choppy sentences; they want your life in your words. Let your life not die in the recesses of your mind; keep it alive by transcribing it for your offspring. They will be grateful forever.

My own grandparents, who unfortunately passed away too early for me to get to know them as much as I’d wish, fortunately left me with their detailed memoirs, they left me a piece of themselves. I know them through their pen and I feel connected.


The fifth book of the Torah is a memoir. For the last 37 days of Moses‘ life he spoke and wrote down the collective memoir of the Jews in the desert and the tumultuous relationship he had with his flock throughout the forty-year journey. It’s an exciting read.

Why the memoir? Why the need to repeat the story and derive its lessons?

Moses understood the power of a story, the human factor in the iron chain of traditionMoses wished to create that human link from the generation of former slaves that trekked through the desert to the generation reading his memoir on a digital screen. To help us identify our 21st-century lives with those of our ancestors. To show us that much more than what has changed is really the same. He understood the power of a story, the human factor in the iron chain of tradition.

Hence the fifth book of the Torah. It’s name is Devarim, “words.” The power of words.

Tell your story. Your children will thank you… and know you.

Rabbi Levi Avtzon lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, with his wife, Chaya, and their children. He regularly blogs his thoughts and ideas on the weekly Torah reading, current and past events, and the imminence of the Redemption on the Jewish website Chabad.org.
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