Shabbat Message: Reviewing History

August 8, 2019
By Beth Mordecai
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Shabbat Message: Reviewing History

Looking at history is the major theme of this week’s Torah portion, Devarim, the first portion in the book of Deuteronomy.

The book of Deuteronomy opens with Moses and reviewing the history of the Israelites’ 40 years of wandering. He shared memories of the spies who spoke out against the land, and of the punishment that followed – 40 years of wandering until the old generation died off. He recounted the sins of the people and the hope that they would now be worthy to enter the land. Just as Moses reviewed the history of his people to that moment, we do as well.

As we study our history, we understand that there are two ways to view our history. We can see history as a series of disconnected events, leading nowhere and meaning nothing. Or we can see history as heading in a particular direction, driving somewhere. The former often is called “random history.” The latter perhaps is best called “redemptive history.”

When we see the moments of Jewish history and our lives as disconnected, we negate our role in shaping our own lives. We then deny the powerful meaning of our experiences. This type of view understands history as a series of random and meaningless events. As we cannot see from whence we came, we cannot plan where we are going.

There is another way to look at history. This view suggests history has a direction and purpose. The future builds on the past. This view of history is best represented by a chain, with each generation a new link. That is why the Bible so carefully recorded the generations of the children of Israel, memorializing connections between the generations. Each generation builds and adds to the previous link. Each new generation sees itself as closer to the perfect messianic age still to come. Human beings experience connections between generations. This appreciation of the past leads to a vision of the future. How do we best honor our past? We work to make a better future.

May God bless us to work together to plan and build a secure future together.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Metz

Category : Rabbi Rabbi's Journal Shabbat