Our past holds the key to understanding the present
This week we read the Song of Moses, one of Moses’ final speeches to the Children of Israel before his death. The only other words Moses speaks to the nation after this are the words of blessing in Deuteronomy Chapter 33. But in Deuteronomy Chapter 32, Moses composes a long poem in which he praises G-d, discusses His relationship with His people and reviews historical events, some of which are revealed prophetically to him but have not yet occurred.
I would like to focus on two verses, each of which carry messages which speak to me in an especially relevant way.
“Remember the days of old, Understand the years of each generation.” (Deut. 32:7) Moses instructs his people to remember their history. In referring to the days of old, he hearkens back as far as Creation — remember the events of the universe from its very beginnings. Understanding the years of a generation implies a deeper comprehension of events of people, of their actions and the consequences of those actions.
Moses understands what so few people understand today — that we are unable to understand our present if we don’t understand our past. If we don’t understand the ways of nature and the origins of the universe, and especially the fact that the universe was created by G-d, we will never be able to comprehend our role as human beings — to serve our Creator. And if we don’t evaluate the events of history, the expectations G-d has from the Jewish people and from all peoples, His judgment over them and the consequences of our actions, then we will be doomed to failure every time.
The second verse that I find meaningful is Deut. 32:15 “And Yeshurun (a name for Israel) grew fat and kicked…then he forsake G-d who created him.” When life is good and blessings are abundant — then it is easy for Israel to forsake G-d, to forget that the source of our blessings is His generosity. When we are in trouble, it is natural to cry out for help. But when things are good, we tend to brag and attribute our success to our efforts alone. We forget that it is G-d who has blessed us, that it is He who created us, and to Him we owe our gratitude.
If all of Israel, if all of the world, would turn to Him in the height of our prosperity, the world would be a better place. The western world is a wealthy world and a secular world indeed.
If all of Israel remembered the lessons of history with regard to our conflict with the Arabs, and if our entire nation remembered that it is G-d who has created us and who is responsible for our blessings, we would all hold on to the gift He has given us and never let go. We would all treasure Biblical Israel forever.
Shabbat Shalom from Samaria,
Director, Israel Office