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linguistic bond

11/07/2019 09:39:04 AM


Shalom Lewis, Rabbi Emeritus

It was a casual conversation about observance when in the appropriate context I mentioned the term licht benchin. My counterpart nodded as the banter smoothly continued. Our shared vocabulary required no explanation nor translation. We spoke the same language and our discussion flowed easily. But then I wondered and grew concerned. I had a linguistic bond with this person. A shared dictionary of memories. But what if I was talking not with a peer but with one of a younger generation? Would I have to footnote every reference and clarify every allusion? Would our conversation be punctuated with ‘huhs’ and ‘whats’?


We talk about generation gaps and I suspect ours are chasmatic, especially within our secularized, assimilated community. We all grew up surrounded by tradition. Exposed to it. A mezuzah on our right as we entered. A mezuzah on our left as we exited. Even if we were not particularly committed it was out there in our nostrils. In our ears. In our eyes. In our hearts. Fragrances. Melodies. Rituals. Words. Holy tchotchkes. It added richness to our lives but sadly those days are disappearing. Ignorance and disinterest is draining the beauty from our faith creating a generation of spiritual orphans. Shared recollections and ceremonies and terminology assured continuity but if skullcapped old timers and bare headed whippersnappers stare at each other with blank faces and shrugs, we are in trouble.


Licht benschin will either illuminate our future or darken it.

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Thu, February 20 2020 25 Shevat 5780