There is a shift in mood in the book of Dvarim beginning with this week’s parsha. It no longer is a review of the events of the desert or of the Exodus from Egypt. Moshe no longer will concentrate on the faults and failures of the generation that left Egypt with such high hopes and saw them dashed by their stubbornness and lack of faith. The past is the past and it cannot be changed. God, so to speak, will not turn the film back again for some sort of replay. The direction of Moshe is now the future, the entry into the Land of Israel and the establishment of a normative Jewish society in that land. Moshe warns the Jewish people that the lessons of the past should not be forgotten or ignored. Their consequences are likely to be repeated if the Jewish people will backslide again. Life and death, good and evil, success and failure - these are the choices that lie before the Jewish people. And Moshe advises us to choose wisely, to treasure life and do good and honor tradition and Torah. The future always depends upon making wiser choices than were made in the past. The word re’eih which means "see" is the key word in the parsha. This entails a vision for the future and an understanding as to its new demands and changing circumstances. Moshe turns the attention of the Jewish people to its future in the Land of Israel and therefore new commandments, not mentioned before in the Torah, appear in order to help the Jewish people be successful in their new environment.
The holy days of the Jewish calendar appear in detail in this week’s parsha. In the Land of Israel these holy days had a physical and agricultural content as well as the inherent spiritual nature of all Jewish special days. In the long and dark Jewish exile the physical and agricultural aspect of the holidays was lost but the remaining spiritual and holy qualities of those days nevertheless sustained the Jewish people. The early pioneers who returned to the Land of Israel, secularized and Marxist to the h
ilt but nonetheless Jewish, attempted to reinsert the physical and agricultural qualities of the holidays of the year and at the same time to discard completely the spiritual and Torah qualities of those days. Unfortunately, that experiment has proved to be a dismal failure. The holidays are bereft of any spiritual content and also of any agricultural or national meaning. Moshe would caution us to begin again, to include life and good and tradition into the holy days so that they would have true meaning and impact and to revive through them our attachment to this holy land and its bountiful produce. I think that the revival of the true spirit of the holidays is one of the great challenges that face us in our land today. In its own way it is a key to solving many of the difficulties that bedevil us currently. Moshe bids us only to look clearly at all of these matters and to decide wisely.
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