Friday, August 12, 2016

Parsha Perspective

By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman

This week’s Parsha Perspective is dedicated by Mr. Binyomin Philipson  in memory of his late mother Mrs. Ellen (Elka bas Zisel) Philipson OBM

The Torah portion this Shabbat (Devarim (Deuteronomy) 1:1-3:22) always comes out on the Jewish calendar immediately prior to Tisha B'Av or on the day of Tisha B’Av itself, as this year, the Jewish national day of mourning. After this Torah reading we read the famous Haftarah (section from the Prophets) of Chazon, the "Vision of Isaiah" which foretells the exile of the Jewish people. On the fast day of “Tisha B'Av” (observed on Sunday)  we will recall the destruction of our Holy Temple nearly 2,000 years ago by fasting and mourning and the other observances of the day.

They say that Napoleon was once passing through the Jewish ghetto in Paris and heard sounds of crying and wailing emanating from a synagogue. He stopped to ask what the lament was about. He was told that the Jews were remembering the destruction of their Temple. "When did it happen?" asked the Emperor. "Some 1700 years ago," was the answer he received. Whereupon Napoleon stated with conviction that a people who never forgets its past would be destined to forever have a future.

In the beginning of our Torah portion, Moses recalls how G-d had said to the Children of Israel, "You have surrounded this mountain long enough. Turn away, and take your journey..." (Deuteronomy 1:6). The mountain is Sinai, scene of the revelation of G-d’s wisdom and will to man. Yet G-d tells us, "You've been here long enough. Move on!"

We must always be prepared to move forward, to carry on to the next stage. How are we to navigate a clear path, through the confusion that is everyday life? How do we reconcile this with our past? How do we utilize our life experience, both individual and collective?

A young boy was traveling from Jerusalem to the Galilee.

He arrived at a four-way crossroads and discovered, to his horror that the crossroads sign, with its arrows pointing the way to the cities lying in the four directions, had fallen down.

Which road should he take to reach his destination?

But he knew where he was coming from - Jerusalem. By arranging the sign so that Jerusalem pointed to the path he had just come from, he was able to figure out which way to go.

This is the key. Moving forward is essential but in order to do so we must remember and understand where we are coming from. The Torah is our collective Jewish life experience. Our heritage and our history are our signposts. Using this as our starting point, knowing where we are coming from, we are able to know and get to where we need to go, on the correct path, without straying or getting lost.

Yes, progress is an inevitable (and even good) thing. Nonetheless, it must be tempered with a clear understanding and appreciation of where we started out from and how Torah is our frame of reference. In this way, we will be able to chart a clear and bright future, dealing with the challenges of the modern world head on, using progress in a positive manner and to reach our final destination, the rebuilding of the third and ultimate Temple in Jerusalem. May it happen NOW!

(Excerpts from

May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!

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