Nitza­vim-Vay­elech

The Jewish Chronicle - - JUDAISM -

“I am mak­ing this covenant… not only with you who are stand­ing here with us to­day… but also with those who are not here to­day” Deuteron­omy 29:13-14

The im­por­tance of wis­dom and re­spon­si­bil­ity across time and through­out gen­er­a­tions is an es­sen­tial el­e­ment in the covenant made at Si­nai. Moses re­minds us again of that covenant in this week’s dou­ble parashah, as he does in the whole of the Book of De­varim.

Con­tempt for the past and dis­re­gard for the fu­ture are both prob­lems of the present.

Un­think­ing ven­er­a­tion of the past is ob­vi­ously folly, but dismissing the in­sights of our an­ces­tors is also an er­ror, es­pe­cially when the rea­son is that they did not think ex­actly as we think; that, af­ter all, is pre­cisely the rea­son why we should con­sider what they have to say, any­thing to break the echo cham­bers we of­ten in­habit.

Re­cently stu­dents at SOAS called for white philoso­phers like Plato and Kant to be ex­cluded from the syl­labus be­cause they wrote in a “colo­nial con­text”. If that at­ti­tude were im­ple­mented, it would be the de­struc­tion of ed­u­ca­tion.

By con­trast, G.K. Ch­ester­ton was right to com­mend tra­di­tion, be­cause it “asks us not to ne­glect a good man’s opin­ion, even if he is our fa­ther”.

The world’s cav­a­lier ap­proach to long-term prob­lems, like cli­mate change and de­mo­graphic trends, demon­strates a dis­re­gard for the con­di­tion of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. Why should our con­cern end with our earthly deaths? Au­then­tic care fol­lows the ex­am­ple of the Almighty whose “kind­ness ex­tends to chil­dren’s chil­dren”.

Moses’s two-fold teach­ing, that we have to be mind­ful of the past and the fu­ture as part of our duty to God who is ever-present, is the best guide to a life of wis­dom and au­then­tic re­spon­si­bil­ity. RABBI DR BEN­JAMIN EL­TON

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