Commentary for Eikev

26 Jul

One of the major struggles that modern Judaism faces is that many of the stories in the Torah often do not feel relatable to modern people. It is hard to believe or be inspired by stories of divine reward and punishment in a time where people have to look very carefully to try to see the hand of God in action. The book of Deuteronomy faces this problem more than most. It has very little narrative and can best be summed up as “when you enter the Promised Land, do this, this, and this, but don’t do that or that, because if you do, God will punish you and kick you out of the Promised Land.” That is much of the content of this week’s parshah as well.
Moses, to his credit, does do his best to change it up a little, always trying to find new angles from which to impart upon the people why it is so imperative that they obey God’s mitzvot. This week, Moses’ message speaks of the importance of memory and firsthand experiences. A story that you read in a history book is just a story, perhaps with some names and numbers attached, but a story you hear from a living, breathing person, describing events and experiences of their lives in detail takes on a life of its own within all who hear it. It becomes more than just words and names. It becomes faces and sounds and smells and emotions. Stories that we read in history books tend to fade quickly from our memories, but stories we hear from our elders tend to stay with us, and with our descendants was we pass them on, forever.
For this reason, Moses tells the people “Take thought this day that it was not your children… but that it was you who saw with your own eyes all the marvelous deeds that the Lord performed (Deut 11:2-7).” If future generations of the Jewish People are to remember that they live on the great and bountiful Land of Israel because of their covenant with God, then they must be taught to remember all of the great things God has done for them, then this generation which has witnessed these great and miraculous deeds firsthand must impress upon the memory of the next generation, along with the importance of passing them down to all generations to come.
We today find ourselves in a very similar situation to that first generation to enter the Promised Land which Moses addresses here. We are the last generations to have either lived through or heard firsthand from those that did, of the amazing stories of the birth of the State of Israel. The stories of the brave pioneers who left their lives in Europe, North America, or the Ottoman Empire to start new, better, or more spiritually fulfilling lives. We carry with us the stories of the hardships they endured for almost seventy years before 1948, working the land, building modern cities, and defending themselves from unhappy neighbors, and the story of how one tiny nation defeated the combined forces of six of her neighbors, each of which on their own had her hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned. The story of how Jews of all different stripes worked together to ensure that there would be a safe haven for Jews being persecuted anywhere around the world.
It is no wonder that the Rabbis chose Moses’ warning to the Israelites about how they must conduct themselves in the Land of Israel as the Torah Reading for Yom Ha’atzmaut. Like the Israelites in the parshah, it is up to us to impart the stories of our coming to the Promised Land to our descendants so that they can carry on the stories and the spirit of which our State of Israel was born, because if we do not, our descendants may find themselves just like our ancestors once did: with the state, and even the spirit, lost.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: