With this week’s portion, Ha’azinu, we come to the next to last portion for the year. We know how the story ends, as does Moses, for as soon as he finished this final poem, he is called by God to ascend a mountain upon which he will die. (32:48-52). You read the portion with a sense of sadness as this is Moses’s final discourse. He proclaims God’s power and prominence and vividly again warns the people of the consequences of straying from the “path” and idolatry.
At the very beginning , however, we read another famous passage. Moses, attempting to recall the Wilderness experience reminds the Israelites to “Remember the days of old, Consider the years that have passed. Ask you father, he will tell inform you, Your elders ,they will tell you (32:7) How fitting for our generation and equally, for our time. Judaism is a religious civilization that cannot be divorced from history. If we do not remember where we have come from and who brought us here, we will be doomed. Sadly, we see this now. We have, in many ways, forgotten history. So few people study it, that we are repeating past errors and falling victim to past themes.
The High Holidays are, in many ways, a reminder that we do wrong to forget the past. Not only the Yizkor service on Yom Kippur, but throughout the Holiday liturgy we are reminded that we have survived, that we cannot forget from whence we came. We translate that concern as well to families. Why have so many Boomers become interested in genealogy? I submit it is like this portion suggests. We wish to remember the people on whose shoulders we stand. Why have so many people now renewed an interest in the Ethical Will? It is also the idea of legacy, of what of us we wish to leave behind.
This verse in this portion speaks to so much of what our modern society forgets; a sense that we are all part of an evolving historical chain, that we do not exist alone and that to forget that dooms us to self worship. Remember and consider. Seek out the wisdom of the experience of the elder. You may be surprised as to what you learn.
Shabbat shalom. G’mar Tov. Tzom Kol
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.