Standing with Your People
The end of the Torah is a poignant and powerful image:
You are all standing this day before HaShem your G-d: your leaders, your judges, your tribes and officers: all the people of Israel... Your children, the immigrant and stranger in the camp from the hewers of wood to the drawers of water...to enter into the Covenant with HaShem your G-d. But not with you alone does G-d cut this Covenant, you who are standing here but also with those who are not here.
The Covenant extends both back and forward in time. It was made not only with the generation of the Exodus but with all of us, past and future. The Covenant transforms us into an eternal people; we as a collective were in Egypt, at Sinai, with the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. We wandered the wilderness. We ascended to Jerusalem and built the Holy Temple. And we saw that Temple go up in flames and suffered in exile. We were in Babylon. We were the ones who returned again to rebuild and live in peace for five hundred more years until that Temple also fell and the great empires of antiquity scattered us across the world.
And we were there; in Spain, in Europe, Asia, in North Africa. We braved the centuries, the times of peace, creativity and prosperity and the seasons of oppression and exile. We rode the wings of storm to come to the New World. We passed through Auschwitz. We rose again to return to our ancient land and stand once more a free people in Zion and Jerusalem. We are not just a collection of individuals but a collectivity. We are each one of us and each all of us.
The Torah's final commandment, also in this double Parsha- last of the 613- encapsulates all of our identity:
Now write for yourselves this song
In other words, every Jew is obligated to write their own Torah scroll. The Rabbis explain that this means not only to become a scribe but to contribute to the continuity of Torah by supporting communities of Torah: by becoming a living Torah, embodying the values and teachings that created us.
This incredible image: of becoming transformed into an eternal people where each of us is a fractal of all of us and all of is each of us, embodied in living Torah each through their own lives, their own precious uniqueness, is the final secret of the Torah.
As we face days of remembrance: the unutterably tragic 16 year anniversary of 9/11 and of future challenges helping our country and people recover from the devastation of Hurricane Irma, let us draw strength from the eternal energy and renewal of the Covenant with G-d and the Torah that expresses it. Let us be witnesses of hope, proclaimers of solidarity and exemplars of compassion, support and openness. We stood at Sinai. The world looks to us and we symbolize G-d's presence and the limitless potential of humanity for good. Let us pray for one thing: to live the truth that we are and that we must be.