In this week’s Torah portion of Eikev, Moses continues his closing address to the Jewish people, prior to his passing.
He begins by articulating the incredible blessings that G-d will bestow upon his people: “What will happen as a result of your listening” (Deut.7:12) to the commandments — not just the “major” precepts but even the minor ones, the ones that people may push aside as if they are less important.
Moses also reminds them of all the miracles G-d performed for them: taking them out of Egypt, smiting their oppressors, the manna that fell from the heavens which sustained them during their 40-year sojourn in the desert, as well as their special clothing which grew with them, as Rashi explains, “like a snail’s shell, which grows along with it.”
Well before the invention of your local dry cleaner, the Jews in the desert had miraculously pressed and clean clothing, which was another of the miracles that they would take with them into the Land of Israel. Imagine the parents of the next generation of Jews, the first in their new homeland, being able to show their children the clothes that they wore the entire time in the desert, still in perfect condition.
So let’s turn the scope inward.
It is no surprise that the nations of the world have forgotten the evil that humanity is capable of perpetuating. Sadly, many Jews have also forgotten our history — both the miracles and the calamities our people have experienced.
In our generation, much emphasis has been placed on teaching about the Holocaust and the crimes perpetrated against our people. While Holocaust education may be important, let’s emphasize our miraculous history before focusing on the tragedies.
Author Bari Weiss said it well several times in a speech she gave in January: “I’m not a Jew because people hate my religion, my people. Not for a single moment does Jew hatred make me a Jew. ... I am a Jew because my brothers and sisters in Crown Heights, Borough Park or Williamsburg refused to hide their Judaism. ... The Jewish people were not put on earth to be anti-anti-Semites, we were put on this earth to be Jews. We are the lamplighters.”
To build a generation of proud Jews, we need to have a Jewish education pyramid, where the base and greatest emphasis must contain actual precepts — mitzvah observance and Torah study. To have a healthy Jewish future, the foundation must be solid. Only then, can other subjects be added.
The parshah this week also contains the second part of the Shema Yisrael prayer in which we are instructed to love and fear G-d, put on tefillin, as well as the obligation to learn and teach Torah.
If we want a generation of proud Jews, we must provide them with knowledge and resources. No one walks around proud that anti-Semites hate them.
Let us lead by example and endow them with authentic Torah knowledge and actual practice of mitzvot, which will instill in them the pride and confidence necessary to be the leaders of tomorrow. JN
Rabbi Yossi Levertov is the director of Chabad of Scottsdale.