What Matters Most to Me and Why
My son applied to Business School a couple of months ago. A required application essay was to be about “What Matters Most to Me and Why.” I was pleasantly surprised when he chose to write about M’dor L’dor. With the holiday season upon us — a time to celebrate values, families, and traditions — he gave me permission to share his personal perspective with my readers.
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I was sweating as I entered the hall. My knees were weak and I was thankful that my parents were on either side of me to support me as I walked toward the wedding canopy, the chupah. I saw the shining eyes of my aunts, uncles, and cousins, and the beaming faces of my grandparents. In the first row sat my great-grandparents, Holocaust survivors who’d promised to live long enough to be here on this auspicious day. I took my place under the chupah and turned to await the appearance of my bride…
I am the beneficiary of a Jewish tradition called m’dor l’dor, an ancestral chain of community values and commitment linking the dead, the living, and those yet to come. M’dor l’dor is the promise to extend a way of living from one generation to the next. This promise is what matters most to me because it affirms my place in my community, shapes my values, and guides the important decisions of my life.
Part philosophy, part strategy guide, and part code of ethics, m’dor l’dor has helped the Jewish people survive and thrive through the millennia despite enormous adversity. In it I find a centuries-old roadmap for how to lead a successful life. Its stories and allegories are like a trail of breadcrumbs for me to follow, and the personal, moral, ethical, and community responsibilities it places upon me are like mile markers for me to achieve.
M’dor l’dor requires my never-ending pursuit of knowledge and self-improvement through learning. Whether by studying in a classroom, immersing myself in foreign cultures, or taking risks, I must continue to advance my knowledge to increase the impact I can have in promoting positive change. Learning also takes place within, as m’dor l’dor demands my honest self-appraisal of my strengths and weaknesses so as to think more clearly, act more effectively, better understand the world, and dream of new possibilities.
M’dor l’dor also informs my moral and ethical choices, even ones as small as reminding a store clerk to charge for an item or making sure to tip a fair share for services provided to me. Adhering to the behavior required by m’dor l’dor makes me a standard bearer for the best of what it represents. Thanks to m’dor l’dor, the ethical path isn’t just the proper one – it’s the only one I see.
Additionally, m’dor l’dor promotes community and elevates the needs of the community to a level of vital importance. Because of my commitment to m’dor l’dor, I willingly accept the responsibility of using my time, skills and abilities, and tangible resources to advance the goals of the communities in my life. Through such efforts as devoting my time to not-for-profit organizations and making financial commitments to worthy causes, I invest in m’dor l’dor’s core idea of advancing progress toward a more fair, just, and peaceful world.
Family is another pillar and the driving vehicle of m’dor l’dor thought in action. It demands that I be a loving and supportive guide, role model, and teacher for my children, just as my parents were for me, and their parents for them. By providing my children with both material opportunities and the spiritual insights to make the most of those opportunities, I will participate in a living history that transcends generations. I am inspired to think that the principles which guide me today were imparted from parent to child two thousand years ago, and, thanks in part to my contribution, will still resonate two thousand years hence.
…At last the doors opened and Jennie, my childhood sweetheart and now my bride, walked in. Knowing that she shares my values and my commitment to m’dor l’dor, I found that my knees were not weak any more. There were no concerns here; as I tearfully recited my vows, I realized that even while I was committing to my family and community, my family and community were committing to me – committing to helping me create the next link in the generational chain, and giving me the clarity, guidance, and strength to do so. Supporting m’dor l’dor, and being supported by m’dor l’dor, I will create a legacy worthy of recognition from those who came before and be embraced by those who come after.
M’dor l’dor…If Jennie and I can successfully pass along to the next generation the values and opportunities that we’ve received, I hope that one day we will be blessed to stand under the chupah at the wedding of our own great-grandchildren.
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Amen. As a parent, you never know if your kids are paying attention. I guess he was. (By the way, he was accepted!)