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לימוד תורה

People who remember their past,

their present is solid and their future is assured

The Parasha in our everyday life – Parashat Ki Tavo 5782

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - Head of the Hesder Yeshiva 'Meir Harel' Modiin

During the past year, I spoke at leading high schools from the north, about 'how to make the most of their IDF service'. As an opening, I read to the students a poem that my brother Sergeant Major Meir Shenvald הי"ד wrote, 'Scenery of the Garden of Eden'. The poem deals with vocation and personal fulfillment by doing for the common good. The poem, written a few months before his enlistment, is a paraphrase of the Hasidic interpretation of Adam's denial of his individuality and the word אַיֶּֽכָּה (Where are you?) repeats itself many times.

One of the students asked me: 'What is the meaning of the word 'אַיֶּֽכָּה?'

I admit, I was surprised by the very question. I answered back with a question: 'Do you know where this word comes from?' After minutes of puzzlement, and desperate solicitation attempts by the teacher, one of the students guessed it was a word from the Bible. 'And where is it mentioned in the Bible?' I continued asking. But I didn't get an answer. Even if this was not a verified and reflective picture of the state Bible study has in schools, it was a mediated sample. Thought-provoking.

The school year started about two weeks ago. With its opening, the Education Minister presented a planned reform for high school matriculation, under which some testing will be replaced with new methods of study, work, and evaluation. From now on, the matriculation certificate will include only three compulsory subjects in which an external matriculation exam will be held: mathematics, English, language, and science subjects will continue as in the past, with externally-set written tests. The matriculation exams for history, literature, civics, and biblical studies will be canceled and replaced by class projects and multidisciplinary work that will be graded internally by each school, alongside an external assessment.

About six months ago, when the reform was announced, concerned educators spoke out against it in the media, as they saw it as a value statement; a preference for the real subjects at the expense of the humanitarian professions, "which as is, suffer from lower ranking among some students" and expressed their fear that "the reform will lead to a hollow and valueless society, to the shallowing of the knowledge worlds and to raising a generation of ignoramuses and dunces". Or that "the reform will turn schools into a high-tech industry", etc. One of the teachers warned that we are bringing up a generation that has not properly learned about its past and the roots of its Jewish existence and identity, and quoted the famous sentence of the late Yigal Allon: "When a nation does not honor its past, it lives in a present of little substance and faces a future clouded in doubt."

One of the important values that preserved the identity of the people of Israel throughout the difficult years of the exile, was the preservation of the historical memory of the founding events of its past, and the preservation of its Jewish identity.

This principle is stated at the beginning of our Parasha, in the Mitzvah of Bikurim. Upon our arrival in the land, we were commanded to bring the first fruits of the crops of our land to the Temple every year. And we were commanded to read the "Mikra Bikurim". A short version of the main events in the history of Am Israel, until they got to the Land of Israel, and how as a result of that, the person is standing there with his own crop in gratitude to Hashem; beginning with Abraham Avinu (or Yaacov Avinu) in Aram, through the slavery and the exodus from Egypt:

וְעָנִ֨יתָ וְאָמַרְתָּ֜ לִפְנֵ֣י ה' אֱלֹקךָ אֲרַמִּי֙ אֹבֵ֣ד אָבִ֔י וַיֵּ֣רֶד מִצְרַ֔יְמָה וַיָּ֥גׇר שָׁ֖ם בִּמְתֵ֣י מְעָ֑ט וַֽיְהִי־שָׁ֕ם לְג֥וֹי גָּד֖וֹל עָצ֥וּם וָרָֽב׃ וַיָּרֵ֧עוּ אֹתָ֛נוּ הַמִּצְרִ֖ים וַיְעַנּ֑וּנוּ וַיִּתְּנ֥וּ עָלֵ֖ינוּ עֲבֹדָ֥ה קָשָֽׁה... וַיּוֹצִאֵ֤נוּ ה' מִמִּצְרַ֔יִם בְּיָ֤ד חֲזָקָה֙ וּבִזְרֹ֣עַ נְטוּיָ֔ה וּבְמֹרָ֖א גָּדֹ֑ל וּבְאֹת֖וֹת וּבְמֹפְתִֽים׃ וַיְבִאֵ֖נוּ אֶל־הַמָּק֣וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה וַיִּתֶּן־לָ֙נוּ֙ אֶת־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַזֹּ֔את אֶ֛רֶץ זָבַ֥ת חָלָ֖ב וּדְבָֽשׁ׃ וְעַתָּ֗ה הִנֵּ֤ה הֵבֵ֙אתִי֙ אֶת־רֵאשִׁית֙ פְּרִ֣י הָאֲדָמָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־נָתַ֥תָּה לִּ֖י ה' וְהִנַּחְתּ֗וֹ לִפְנֵי֙ ה' אֱלֹקיךָ ...

"You shall then recite as follows before Hashem your G-d: My father was a fugitive Aramean. He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation. The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and oppressed us; they imposed heavy labor upon us… Hashem freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and by signs and portents, bringing us to this place and giving us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Wherefore, I now bring the first fruits of the soil which You, Hashem, have given me.” You shall leave it before Hashem your G-d …" (Devarim 26:5-10)

The reminder: "The basic facts of Jewish national history and the basic rules of the Jewish national role" (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch's Commentary ibid), is very important. You mentioned every year when bringing the first-fruits: "Remind every Jew of his national historical origin and the national role that derives from it." (ibid). And it teaches: "How should we value the heritage of the land and the material wealth that derives from it, because the land and its fruits are the foundations of our national existence and we must recognize them according to their origin and purpose" (ibid).

Precisely when we stand in front of the material abundance and the achievements we have gained as a result of the inheritance of the land, we must remember the history, the roots, where we came from and why, and nurture the Jewish identity lest it be blurred. Because only a nation that remembers its past and its identity, its present is solid and its future is guaranteed.

The secret for redemption lies in remembering.

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