Generation Sinai logo 370.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Something amazing is happening today. At more than 100 Jewish day schools in 38
cities around the world, parents and children are gathering across six
continents to study Torah together as part of a joint initiative of global
Jewish unity, called Generation Sinai.
Tens of thousands of parents and
children will be studying the same section of the Torah on the same day in their
individual schools as part of one integrated international campaign which began
in South Africa.
Jews across the world are separated by oceans and
mountains, continents and climates, language and culture, but we have one Torah
that can hold us all together.
“Like one person with one heart” – our
sages’ description of the Jewish people in the days immediately before the
receiving of the Torah – captures the spirit of unity of the day, which is also
about connecting to previous generations of Jews.
Parents and children
studying Torah in ancient Israel during the times of King David, or in the
Middle Ages in a ghetto of pre-Renaissance Europe, and parents and children
studying in the the 21st century at the southern tip of Africa, or in the great
metropolitan areas of Western civilization, are all learning the same Torah
words and ideas. There is no other nation on earth that has achieved such
continuity, which defies all the normal laws of history.
How did this
happen? One generation at a time. It’s like the physical survival of any
society. Human beings will only continue as a species so long as parents give
birth to children, one generation at a time. Each generation must decide whether
to give birth to the new one. If they decide not to, human civilization
Similarly, every generation of Jews must consciously give birth
to the next, physically, spiritually and morally, one generation at a time. The
entire enterprise of the Jewish People can cease in a generation unless
sufficient numbers of Jews decide to have children and raise them with the
values of Judaism by giving them our Sinai legacy.
The legacy we received
from G-d at Mount Sinai remains in the world so long as Jewish parents hand it
on to their children. Birth or death of the legacy happens one generation at a
time. Anyone who considers himself Jewish today can probably identify ancestors,
from the not too distant past, who were committed to the Sinai legacy and made
the decision to transmit it to the next generation. They did so by ensuring that
their children and grandchildren received a Jewish education and, often, by
taking personal responsibility to study Torah with their own
The legacy is handed on in the context of a personal and loving
bond between parent and child, and so the foundational facts of who we are and
where we come from are transmitted from one generation to the next: “Only be
careful... lest you forget the things your eyes saw... and you shall make them
known to your children and your children’s children the day you stood before the
Lord your G-d at Sinai.” (Deuteronomy 4:9-10); “And you shall tell your child on
that day saying, it is because of this that G-d did for me when I went out of
Egypt.” (Exodus 13:8).
Measuring in generations changes everything. The
3,325 years since G-d gave us the Torah, sounds like a very long time ago, but
measured in generations it is actually shorter than you think. If you assume
that there are about four generations in every hundred years, then there have
only been about 130 generations from Mount Sinai until today. In terms of
grandparents, we are only talking about 65 grandfathers or grandmothers ago.
Measuring by generations reveals our link to Sinai is actually quite
So simple, yet so powerful.
One generation at a
Sharing Torah together. And that is what Generation Sinai is about.
It is about sharing our Sinai legacy with the next generation, and in so doing,
ensuring our Jewish future. It is about giving birth to the next generation of
Jews by parents and children studying Torah together. Amidst the pressure and
turbulence of modern life, Generation Sinai proclaims the preciousness of the
bond between parents and children, the enduring sanctity and spiritual power of
Torah learning, and the strength of Jewish unity. The clarion call to reaffirm
these vital principles is sounded by the simple eloquence of the personal
commitment and participation of parents to study Torah with their children, and
in so doing to bridge the generation gap by finding common language, values and
space to engage with one another; their souls connect and a powerful spiritual
energy is created, one which uplifts all for the good, including the parents
A new dynamic of mutual inspiration is unleashed, and it is
the gateway to the future and indeed to the redemption of the world – in the
words of the prophet Malachi (3:24): “And he shall turn the hearts of the
parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the
The writer is chief rabbi of South Africa. For more about this
initiative see www.generationsinai.com
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