How does a leader, in this case Moses, prepare the way for his people to carry on and fulfil their mission? It is very apt this week as we mourn the loss of the Queen and prepare for a new age with all the challenges ahead. Ceremonies, practices and a sense of history underpin society but it is each individual who must remember and pass those memories on.
The Sedra begins with the anticipation of Shavuot, bringing the first fruits to the Temple, but it also recalls Pesach. Each individual would declare:
I declare this day to the Lord, your God that I have come to the land which the Lord swore to our forefathers to give us
The reading continues with those words which form part of the Seder service to this day
אֲרַמִּי֙ אֹבֵ֣ד אָבִ֔י
An Aramean sought to destroy my forefather
Possibly the section of the Sedra which most of us recall is the Tochecha: either described as curses or ”rebukes”: read hurriedly and in a low voice. Reading these words as curses it would be understandable but, if we consider them as rebukes, surely they need to be heard out loud.
הַסְכֵּ֤ת וּשְׁמַע֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל הַיּ֤וֹם הַזֶּה֙ נִֽהְיֵ֣יתָ לְעָ֔ם לַֽיהֹוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ:
Pay attention and listen, O Israel! This day, you have become a people to the Lord, your God.
God is seen by us not as a tyrannical ruler but as a teacher.
The French philosopher Pascal wrote
In certain parts of the world we can see a peculiar people, separated from the other peoples of the world, and this is called the Jewish people.
There is a well-known saying
How odd of God
To choose the Jews.
But not so odd.
The Jews chose God.
Those last words come from the Sedra this week where we will read:
You have selected the Lord this day, to be your God, and to walk in His ways, and to observe His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and to obey Him.
And the Lord has selected you this day to be His treasured people, as He spoke to you, and so that you shall observe all His commandments.