THE HISTORY OF MAN AND THE HISTORY OF EACH MAN
We are, as the British-American poet W.H. Auden once said, “history making creatures.”  We make this history together with our G-d. As Jews, we cannot allow ourselves to be passive observers, swept along by the events that others make. We are a history-making people! To make history is to build. It is to take a three-thousand-year-old legacy and to move it consciously forward. To be Jewish is to feel the pulse of the past, harness it, and leave the world a better place for the next generation.
Elisha Wiesel, son of Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, put it like this:
When I said Kaddish [for my father] for eleven months, I was not just connecting with him; I felt connected with his forebears as well. I had a real sense of history, going back thousands of
years, of what it meant to be part of a lineage with certain traditions, rituals, and values. For almost 2,000 years, when a parent has passed away, the Jewish child has said Kaddish. There
is something profound about that. As I prepare my own son for his bar mitzvah and watch my daughter learning Hebrew, despite this crazy modern life with all of its distractions, I have
this same sense of history and continuity. I think about where I came from, where I am, and where my Jewish children will go in the future. That’s deeply meaningful and very grounding.
A NEW DEFINITION OF INDIVIDUALISM
Contemporary society believes that each individual needs to reinvent himself from scratch. The alternative, it is presumed, is to be stuck with outdated and irrelevant traditions, where everyone is forced to be the same.
But Judaism takes a different position. Not only is our starting point Divine and sublime, but there are well over a hundred generations of Jewish genius to build on! We begin our journey perched on the shoulders of giants. It is then up to each individual to create their own personal
legacy and become someone entirely unique.
 W.H. Auden, The Dyer’s Hand (London: Faber and Faber, 1963), pp. 278–79.
Read the previous essay, Belief as Truth.
Purchase a copy of The Human Challenge.
Olami Resources is happy to present a series of free installments featuring Rabbi Avraham Edelstein’s important new book, The Human Challenge. This week’s essay is from Section One – A Purposeful Life.
Rabbi Avraham Edelstein serves as the Education Director of Neve Yerushalayim College for Women and a senior advisor to Olami. Many of Rabbi Edelstein’s foundational publications addressing the world of Kiruv appear on OlamiResources.com.