This week’s Torah portion is Va’etchanan from the book of Deuteronomy, in which Moses continues his ‘swan-song’ to the Israelites, his final address before he dies and they continue on with their journey.
The idea of a swan-song, the final words one might say to an audience that would hear (and perhaps, listen) is both fascinating, and sobering.
Not surprising, a good chunk of what Moses relays to our people is a rehash of their recent history; how we got from ‘there’ to ‘here’. Moses, as is typical with his personality and age, does not pull any proverbial punches. He ‘tells it like it is.’ Hearing this…truth…is not always easy. There are mistakes that we as a Jewish civilization have made that are painful to recount. Some of the mistakes were unintentional, and some were deliberate but misguided.
But what Moses does so well, amid what we might hear as criticism, is to instill a sense of confidence and pride in our people. Yes, there have been lows…but also great successes. There have been poor choices, but also great acts of courage and morality.
Moses, in his own unique way, is driving the point home that we Jews have a narrative.
We have a story.
There are facts and circumstances that have made us who we are. And…there are lessons that each generation has had to learn in order to progress forward.
Anachronistically, it has been the role of the rabbis throughout the eons to encapsulate some of these meta- lessons through holiday, story, and ritual so that we (and everyone Jewish generation) might have a chance at the learning without the pain of the trial.
We, Jews of today, are living through some strange and uncomfortable times.
May we have the wisdom and discernment to use the gifts of our tradition to navigate safely through these uncertain days.
I look forward to seeing you at services here at Temple Emanu-El (in person and online) this Shabbat.