These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

ואתחנן, va’etchanan

Posted on August 14, 2011 by Avi Strausberg

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You are Getting Sleepy

in this week’s parshat va’etchanan, moshe attempts to perform the greatest magic trick of all time:  to convince an entire nation, to truly make them believe, that they were all somewhere where they were not.

the ideas of forgetting and remembering dominate this parsha in which once again moshe details all the laws and decrees by which בני ישראל are bound in their service to God.  moshe struggles with a crucial question in this long reiteration of the convenant before בני ישראל:  how do you ensure a lasting continuity of collective memory and halachic practice when with each successive generation the covenant is forgotten and remembered anew?

as it is, the very first generation, the generation that was actually present at sinai and actually entered into the convenant “face-to-face,” went astray in the desert and was banned from entering the land.  how can we possibly believe this next generation, who wasn’t there at all, will carry on the tradition any better?

in response, moshe recounts the experience of revelation, the voice admist the fire, asserting that “it was not with our fathers that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, the living, every one of us who is here today.  face to face the Lord spoke to you on the mountain out of the fire” (devarim 5: 3-4).  i don’t know how successful this attempt to create within us a lasting memory really was.  but, i certainly appreciate moshe’s urgency to give us something to remember, something to own, and something to believe was truly ours all along.

on the count of three,
you’ll wake and believe you saw,
קול מתוך האש (voice admist the fire)

here’s to memories as vivid and real as yesterday,