D’var Torah For Friday, August 5, 2022

This week we will be reading from parashat Devarim, the first Torah portion in the book of Deuteronomy. It is crazy to think that we are not only keeping track of the pandemic by counting the days and weeks, but also by counting the books of the Torah. We are now beginning the fourth book we have been studying and learning from since the shutdown in March.

According to tradition, Deuteronomy was a series of sermons given by Moses to the Israelites as they were about to enter the land of Canaan without him. In this sense, Moses was attempting to remind Israel not only of their journeys over the past forty years, but also of their obligations to God and to each other following the conquest of the land.

Upon initial reading, one would be inclined to think that Moses’ words would be positive. However, Moses often expressed his frustration with the Israelites reminding them of the numerous times they opposed him and God, much to their own consternation. In particular Moses told them the story of how they “flouted the command of the Eternal your God,”[1] when it came to the story of the twelve scouts.

The journey from Egypt to Canaan was not an easy one. There was disagreement over what it meant to be a nation and a covenantal people. There was disagreement over what it meant to be free and to be holy. These disagreements often became contentious, and many suffered for it. Ultimately, it was only the next generation as well as Joshua and Caleb who would ultimately benefit from the promise of redemption. Even Moses, Aaron, and Miriam would not live to walk into the Promised Land.

There is a powerful lesson in this. All too often, we spend time arguing over issues as they pertain to us and us alone. What the Torah is reminding us is that every argument should not only be for the sake of heaven, but also for the sake of the next generation.

It is also an important reminder that the promise of redemption is not a personal promise, but a promise made to the people as a whole. Therefore, if we wish to see our people, and all people redeemed, it will be through our children and our grandchildren. Whatever it takes to make their world better and safer is a charge upon us all. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to continue to make it happen, not only for our sake, but for theirs as well.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Benjamin A. Sharff.

[1] Deuteronomy 1:26