Much to the chagrin of my family, my verion of zoning out is watching videos on the TikTok app. I find TikTok to be a great source of entertainment and community — and it can sometimes be a great source of torah. [As the midrash in Genesis Rabbah 1 teaches, God looked to the world to create Torah; therefore, anything can be torah!]
A few months ago, a woman posted a video asking her followers or those who happen upon her page: “What ‘unserious’ generational curse are you breaking?” She volunteered her answer- she throws away stained tuperwares, unlike her parents who held onto them for years.
Dozens and dozens of people have “stiched” her video adding their own answers, some related to parenting, some about how they live their lives today versus how they were raised. Some of my favorite responses were:
”My kids don’t have to eat all the food on their plate. When they are full, they are full.”
From a young woman: “My father broke his family’s generational curse by never allowing any person he came in contact with to comment on her looks or appearance.”
“I will never be a “I said so” adult. If my kids ask me something, I will explain it to them. If they are awake and adults are talking, they are welcome into the conversation.”
“If my kids get new clothes, they can wear them. (even right away- they don’t have to wait)”
“I will never call my kids lazy when they are just as tired as I am after a long day of school/work.
“I throw out expired food.”
Even the “unserious ones” are serious! It is no small thing to break away from learned behavior, passed on from one generation to another.
I add a few of my own, how I am (and am trying) to break generational curses:
I will apologize if I did something wrong, to my kids, to my peers, friends, or husband. Though I had no model of regret and apology in my childhood, I recognize how important it is to acknowledge when I have done something hurtful and to make amends.
I listen before fixing, as much as possible.
I make space for sad emotions as well as happy ones.
Breaking “generational curses” to me is an important facet of the work of teshuvah. Teshuvah is the act of turning and returning, to being the best versions of ourselves. Teshuvah is also the act of repair — including the act of repairing the mistakes from one generation to the next to create a more kind, understanding, and loving present and future.
As we consider our personal teshuvah, I also invite you to think about what generational teshuvah looks like for you. What have you done to further generational teshuvah in your own life and/or your own family? Give yourself credit for that healing work! And what healing work still needs to be done, to let go of ingrained but potentially unhelpful and even hurtful patterns set by previous generations? What do you need to let go of to bring healing for yourself and for future generations?