“Remember the days of old, understand the years of generation after generation . . .” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 32:7). Moses is nearing the end of his life so he urges the Israelites to reflect. Is nostalgia sufficient or are there specific events they should bring to mind?
The parsha for this Sabbath is Haazinu. It is the song G-d commanded Moses to teach to the Children of Israel at the end of the previous parsha. Heaven and earth are called to be a witness to all of the disasters that will befall the Nation if it strays from the path that G-d has set. Then it describes the joy that will come at the time of the final redemption. At the end of the parsha G-d gives Moses his last mitzvah.
Rashi comments that “remember” refers specifically to those who came earlier, the people of the Golden Calf, who angered G-d and were sentenced to die in the Wilderness.
He goes on to explain that “the years of generation after generation” refers to the Generation of Enosh, which was so corrupt that G-d decided to destroy most of humanity. As well, it refers to the Generation of the Flood, which despite seeing the oceans inundate a third of the world and obliterate Enosh’s generation, did not learn to humble itself.
Both are examples of how with a proper internalization of history you will avoid the mistakes of the past.
The Vilna Goan has a different take. He explains “the days of old” as referring to the Six Days of Creation. Only by examining history through G-d’s plan for the world and the development of humanity can you properly understand it.
As revisionist historians have shown in the last three decades, secular sources alter their views of history based on their own economic, social, and political beliefs. Where then is truth? The larger message of this week’s parsha is recited at the beginning of morning prayers: reishis chachmah, yiras G-d – the beginning of wisdom is the fear of G-d. Without the Creator, not even right and wrong, let alone an accurate view of history, exist.
Question – How do you insure you are properly learning history’s lessons?
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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.
Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!