Rabbi Miriam's Blog
From Rabbinic Intern, Greg Metzger
“These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan . . . ”Devarim 1:1
Rabbanu Yonah teaches “Keep your sins before you always.” It is important to remember the mistakes of your past. This is relatively easy. What is more difficult is remembering the mistakes of a common past, perhaps mistakes, and possibly adventures we did not even experience personally.
In the first chapter of Devarim, it would seem that Moses is sharing this lesson as he relates to the assembled Jewish nation the “sins” of the past. But the lesson he teaches and the challenge he faces is so much greater than that.
Devarim is a different book from the prior four books of Torah. The first four books describe events as they unfold and the characters in those books experience the events as they occur.
Devarim, however, recounts events to an audience with no personal memory (except Joshua and Caleb) of slavery, redemption or even the revelation at Sinai.
Moses’ goal on this day, the day he recounts this story to the Children of Israel, is the same goal and challenge we face today:
• How to make someone else’s story, your story
• How to make an ancient story as meaningful to you today as if it occurred today.
Judaism’s interest in creating a vibrant future is rooted in our reverence of the past – good and bad. This is evident in our liturgy and our rituals. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in our holiday customs, particularly Passover, where it is incumbent upon us to see ourselves as if we had gone out of Egypt. Tisha b’av is coming soon. This holiday of dark reflection asks us to face the destruction of the past and see our part in the destruction of our common future. Without looking honestly at the “sins” of our past and the damage they cause, we are less able to see the future impact of our current behavior.
It is no secret that I love stories. The ones I love the most are the stories of how we came to be here in America. For some of you, the story is yours. For others, it is a parent or grandparent’s story.
As we begin this first reading in the final book of Torah – this summary of hardships faced, obstacles overcome, mistakes made and lessons learned, I ask you to re-hear the story of how you came to be here today. Share the story with your children and grandchildren and make sure to include a summary of hardships faced, obstacles overcome, mistakes made and lessons learned.
Ahavat Torah of West Los Angeles
About Rabbi Miriam
Rabbi Miriam E. Hamrell MHL, M.Ed., has served as our religious and spiritual leader at Ahavat Torah Congregation and helped it grow since it was founded in 2003.