Rabbi Wein.com The Voice of Jewish History

Rabbi Wein’s Weekly Blog
 Printer Friendly


The Torah reading of this week continues the long, final oration of Moshe to the Jewish people, as he prepares for his own mortal demise.  It is important to note that throughout the words of Moshe here in the final book of the Chumash, there is, mixed together, the requirement of the memory of the past – the distant and immediate past – with the vision of the future, again the far future and the immediate future.

There are those amongst us who live pretty much in the memory of our long, eventful and holy past. Being suffused with nostalgia, they paint for themselves a picture that is many times more fantasy than reality. And since the reality of the past never is portrayed, any attempt to learn from that past is futile. We see so often in the words of Moshe how frank and honest is his recollection and recitation of the events of the past. He spares no one and no event.
His love for the Jewish people, that shines forth from every verse and word of this book, in no way forces him to color the past and sanitize the events that occur. It is the honesty of his oration and presentation that gives it such power and eternity.
The person who has to climb a hill will oftentimes in the middle of the climb look back to see how much has already been accomplished. In order to continue the climb, psychologically that is an enormous aid. So too, on the eve of the entry of the Jewish people into the Land of Israel, Moshe reminds them of the past and of the climb that they already achieved and experienced – the travails of our ancestors, the slavery in Egypt, the revelation at Sinai, the disasters of the desert – in order to prepare them for the rest of the climb before them.
But he also portrays the vision of their future in the Land of Israel and in the diaspora. There again Moshe is honest and candid with his words of prophecy. He promises no rose garden, nor an easy path towards the ultimate redemption and return of the Jewish people to their homeland, to their faith and ultimately to their Creator.
Just as Jews were and are prone to fantasize about our past, so too, perhaps even to a greater extent, are we susceptible to creating a picture of an unrealistic and unsustainable future. We see in the Talmud the opinion that promises us a rather bland messianic era. Maimonides adopts this viewpoint as well. However because of the length of the exile and of the enormous tragedies that have been our lot in that exile, many Jews have upped the ante for the messianic era.
By so doing, we are disappointed with what has already been achieved and make it more difficult than ever to have a realistic view of what our policies and expectations for the future should be. For a balanced picture of the holy vision regarding the Jewish people, past and present, one need only study and remember the final words of Moshe as they appear before us in the Torah readings of these weeks.
Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Berel Wein

Subscribe to our blog via email or RSS to get more posts like this one.