From Generation to Generation

I’ll start by saying it unequivocally: It worked.

If anyone had told me that it was coming, I would have had my doubts and, in fact, probably would have vowed never to watch it.

But, I did watch it. And, it worked.

It made me smile. It made me cry. It brought back memories and made new ones.

I am referring to Xfinity’s four minute commercial featuring E.T., the Extra Terrestrial’s return to Earth. It is, in my opinion, an absolute masterpiece.

I have a strong connection with the movie because the first High Holy Day sermon I gave as a rabbi was based on E.T., which had just come out a few months before. So, I consider it, in a somewhat irreverent way, to be “kadosh”, to be holy and sacred. And, we shouldn’t tinker with sacred things unless we are really careful.

But, I think whoever was responsible for this idea and this four minute film really did it so well that it brought me to tears again after so many years.

So much of the video captured the spirit of the movie in a Midrashic way. So many of the scenes from the movie were recreated very briefly (the flower, the screaming, dressing E.T. up). But, those were supplemented by the updating of technology which made me stop and think about how so many things which would have seemed impossible 38 years ago are now taken for granted. The idea of combining the past with the present is a model for how interpretation of an ancient text can be relevant.

But, bringing the actor who played Elliot, Henry Thomas back to see E.T. again and to introduce him to his family was genius. Midor l’dor, from generation to generation, the scenes with the family were priceless.

My sermon on E.T. focused on the quote at the end of the movie: “I’ll be right here”. Just before leaving to go home, E.T. reached out and pointed to Elliot’s heart and told him, in words the boy had said to him earlier: “I’ll be right here.” I envisioned those words as words God might have said to the people at Mt. Sinai before the revelation ended: “Follow my Torah and you will always remember our time together. Follow the Torah and I’ll be right here”.

But, that thought only works if we imagine, as does Jewish tradition, that we all stood at Mt. Sinai and that we commit ourselves to passing down the words and the lessons to the generations to come.

From Generation to Generation…

As I watched this brilliant video, a thought came to mind.

Had Elliot told his children about E.T.?

I think it’s pretty clear from watching the video that he had.

Good for him.

And, how fortunate were his kids.

So, I started to think about all the time I have spent telling our kids (who are now in their mid 20s) the stories of my life. It is so important that we pass those stories down from generation to generation. Our children might have been at Mt. Sinai but they weren’t with us when we were growing up and they need to know where we, and they, came from.

In the end, the most important message of this video for me was: tell our kids our stories and let them use those stories to prepare them for the moments when “from generation to generation” suddenly becomes more than just a saying.

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