September 2017, Torah reading Nitzavim, Woodmere NY- Israel
Moshe (Moses) is addressing the Nation of Israel. It is the day of his death, his passing from this world, and he wants to enter the Nation of Israel into a Brith, a covenant with God, the Eternal One.
Now this generation has experienced things that no other generation experienced. They are the children of those who were slaves in the land of Egypt, they met Moshe in person! They were led by Aharon (Aaron) the Cohen, the high priest. They saw so many miracles; the Ten Plagues, the splitting of the Red Sea, the Mannah from heaven and the defeat of Amalek and the Egyptian army drowning. They saw more than anyone would see for years to come, so now was the moment that Moshe chose to speak.
You have been released from bondage and slavery, you who have been led through the desert, you who have experienced this redemption, to you it is that I speak!
But not to you alone, says Moshe, no, not at all, but "with him who stands here today before God and also to him that is not with us here today" (Deuteronomy 29, 14).
Why is this moment so important?
Future generations will only hear about this from others who were not there either. Perhaps they will read about it in books or learn about it in school. No one alive today met Moses or Aaron, no one alive today stood at Mount Sinai when God spoke to the nation of Israel. But there is a covenant and a direct link.
Your ancestors stood there, all of them, not a person was absent. And they heard it directly from Moses and they, having seen what they saw, and having known what they knew, agreed to this eternal covenant. And that includes you who were not yet born.
Imagine now that you walked out of Auschwitz. You saw it all; the trains, the Nazis, the gas chambers. You saw it all and you made a decision that this knowledge must never pass from this earth. You made a decision that the lessons learned here will never be forgotten. And so, you took an oath. And this oath is binding, not only for you, but you took it for all who shall come in your footsteps, for all generations. Remember, thou shall not forget!!
You who experienced this, you take the oath on behalf of those who never fully understand it. As the Holocaust survivors/Witnesses say, "If you were not there you will never fully understand".
A person who experienced a violent crime will take an oath to train in self defense and never be a victim again. But his friends, his children, who did not experience this will not share the same feeling. He takes an oath on their behalf, on behalf of a relative violently murdered, on behalf of a loved one violated in the worst possible way, he/she takes this oath to teach Krav Maga, self defense, security, home protection. We take this oath because we understand it, we came out of Egyptian bondage, walked through the desert, saw the truth and make a covenant, for those here today and for those not here today.
We make this covenant and we take it forward.