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Moses concludes the main element of Mishneh Torah - his final presentation of the details Torah observance - to the Israelites before his death with the following words:
On this very day, G-d commands you to perform these statutes and commandments… You today chose G-d by walking in His Ways, that He may be yours… And G-d chose you today, to be His… so that He may put you high above the nations… for praise, for a name, and for glory… (26:16-19).
This is no declaration of intrinsic Israelite superiority. Being put 'high above the nations' is something acquired entirely on the merit of becoming close to the Creator though the route He revealed by the Torah, and the many self-sacrifices to ones ta'avot (personal desires) and kavod (pride, desire for personal honor) made en route in life's journey. As Moses put it near the beginning of his address:
(The Torah is at the root of) your wisdom and understanding amongst the nations… They will say: 'This can only be a wise and intelligent nation. Who is like this great nation who has G-d close by… and who is like this great nation who has such just and wise laws, contained within the Torah… which I command today?' (4:6-8)
Thus the exalted position of the Israelites is contingent on their personal and communal life being a light to the nations (c.f. Isaiah 49:6). Indeed, the Hebrew use of the singular is deliberately ambiguous - to address each Israelite as an individual, and at the same time the whole of an Israelite nation as one unified people. And as the Parasha continues, the cost of the Israelite nation effectively renouncing that eternal relationship and goal in the future (such as to merely be a nation like all other nations) will be very high.
Here (as in the Shema), Moses constantly stresses the word hayom - today. Rashi stresses that Moses final exhortation to the Israelites was not a one-off, but something to be passed on to future generations for all time. The word hayom is that the Torah teachings should feel as though they are indeed new - every day. As new as they were when Moses taught them to the Israelites.
This is an issue of people's mindset - both as individuals, and as a nation. A person - or for that matter a nation - can be of a fixed mindset. That means that all they learn, and the mitzvot they perform appear to be the same year after year. What they do becomes more and more robot-like. It loses freshness and inspiration. Another person can see the same information or perform the same mitzvot, but as a more developed person as the year before. That comes not from a fixed mindset, but from a growth mindset. People with a growth mindset frequently say that each year they learn Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), it looks quite different. They have grown during that year, and view the great insights into human nature shown by the Rabbis afresh in the light of what they learnt and experienced that year.
The same applies with the weekly Parasha - which to such a mindset looks different and even more inspiring with fresh exposure as the annual cycle comes round once again.
That is the secret of the Israelites interaction with Torah - hayom - this day. Yesterday' revelation must not become today's commonplace. It must be re-visited, in the light of the experiences of the individual and the experience of the nation as a whole as a means of spiritual 'compass-bearing' and growth. It looks, feels, and tastes different to different generations. It is the regular study together with growth mindset which turns Torah observance into the source of the Israelites' strength and mission to humanity.
This D'var Torah is written in loving memory of my dearest Mother, Harabanit Devora Solomon ztl. who ascended to the Yeshiva Shel Ma'ala on Shabbat Ki Tavo twelve years ago. May her memory be blessed, and be a source of blessings.
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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