You don’t remember when you were a very little kid, but if you have had one in your adult life you know that a child never tires of hearing the same story over and over again. Even when you want to dig up the author of Good Night Moon and throttle her for the satisfaction of it, you can’t help but indulge the little sleepy-head who wants to hear it with the same intonation every single night. Twice. And God help you if you miss a word.
We have a more sophisticated version of that phenomenon throughout the Jewish year. In Torah readings and holiday narratives (like Purim and Pesach) we tell the same stories verbatim to the same tune and inflections. And then we take them apart and put them back together. From this retelling comes our inspiration, even when services are too long and Pesach is too soon and the reader is too halting. At an important level, even when we are impatient, we never tire of hearing the same story. Even when we tell it to ourselves — like the child who mouths the words "good night cow jumping over the moon"—we never tire of the story.
These days there seems to be an exception among some Jews, and I hope to dissuade you from catching the aversion. For some reason, some folks have tired of telling the genuinely miraculous and inspiring story of the rebirth and renewal of the Jewish people in their own land. It is every bit as compelling as our escape from Egypt. It is even more exciting in reality than in a Leon Uris novel. It is far more tolerable than Good Night Moon. And perhaps most important, it is your story, whether you claim it up close or far away.
For some reason we feel the need to revise our claims and provide an excuse to every critic, cynic and fool who asks why there should be a Jewish state. For some reason we feel comfortable with the ancient story of our liberation for the sake of being delivered to our land, but discomfited by the notion that we have thrown the shackles of other modern cultures off of ourselves to thrive in national self-expression. For some reason we carry a sense of guilt that no one else feels–for being who we are where we were meant to be.
Our story does not absolve us of moral expectations or ethical behavior– just the opposite! But only by rejoicing in it, retelling it and insisting on its place in our lives will our story persist and our people continue to live it. It has worked for Purim. It has worked for Pesach. It works for the State of Israel.
So proudly tell and retell the story: our people, awakened to their destiny just as they were cast out and murdered by their hosts, came to the land of their ancestors to build and to be built. On swamps they built cities. In wastelands they planted orchards. They made the desert bloom. And they opened their arms to every brother and sister seeking to come home. In barely a generation they went from beggars to providers, and they share their bounty with even the hostile opponents of their success.
That’s us. That’s you and me and the whole Jewish people. And that’s worth hearing every day. Twice.