Forever engraved on the walls of my heart is the profound experience of visiting Yad Vashem, which is the living memorial to the six million Jewish adults and children who lost their lives during the Holocaust. Every exhibit speaks volumes of honor to the victims and powerfully tells the story of this tragic period in history. It’s a grave reminder that bigotry and hatred will always lead to unmitigated heartache.
I was struck by the resolve of the Jewish people to remember these horrific events. These words are inscribed on the entrance wall of the living memorial, “Has the likes of this happened in your days or in the days of your fathers? Tell your children about it, and let your children tell theirs. And their children the next generation” (Joel 1:2-3).
They remember, and they want the world to remember, so this heinous slaughter won’t be repeated.
The bleak chapters of history can serve as guides to a better path—a better future. “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it…” (Jeremiah 6:16).
Similarly, when the Israelites crossed the Jordan River making their way into the Promised Land, the first thing God commanded them to do was gather rocks and build an altar so that, “…When your children ask in times to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever” (Joshua 4:6-7).
This memorial served as an observable symbol of God’s faithful providence that safely led His people through the harsh desert into the long awaited Promise Land.
This place would help the next generation understand their ancestral history and serve as a tangible foundation on which to build their own faith. It was also a visible reminder of Israel’s rich history with God.
Our stories matter too. Remembering our pasts, helps us to move forward into the promise of our futures. We are reminded of God’s presence in all seasons. It allows us to cultivate thankfulness during the difficult desert seasons as we recount His provisions in past seasons. Recalling our mistakes, hopefully, keeps us from repeating them. And, we can remember how they were met with His unending grace.
Friends, as we gather in the coming weeks around holiday tables, let’s courageously recount our faith stories that highlight God’s goodness and faithfulness in our lives. Tell even the hard stories with honesty—they matter, too. It is in the trenches of these stories that the thread of God’s grace often shines the greatest.
Our children need tangible examples of cultivated endurance and courage that is evidenced in a long abiding history with Him. They are gifts that will leave sustaining blessings long after we are gone. We will never fully know how they will impact the generations to come.
Word of the Day:
I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from old, things that we heard and known that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation… (Psalm 78:2-4a)
Father God, thank You for the power of our stories. Please help us to remember the places of Your faithfulness and goodness. Give us the courage to share them with sincere honesty. And may they bless our children. Amen.
* My thoughts were inspired by the thoughtful words written by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.
Author: Maryanne Abbate