Parashat D'varim

From Reaction to Action

Hope exists in the recognition that the world is changeable.

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For Ezekiel, the assertion to not punish the children for the sins of their parents comes with hopefulness. Hope that pulls us out of the reactive and into the active. In some ways, it is the prime motivator behind activism. 

But hope is not enough. As Moses tells the Israelites of their embattled history, it is the new generation to which he speaks. His warnings and conclusions come across clearly as those of the slave generation. It stands out that he himself will not enter the land. It is not Moses but the new generation that will create Jewish settled society.

Passing on the Message

The generation of slavery scouted the land and saw themselves as grasshoppers against giants. We also know this feeling well. As we look at the legacy of our parents' generations, hope is often not the word that comes to mind. Yet it is precisely hope that enables us to enter the land.

As the Israelites stood on the cusp of entering a new era, so we are always on the cusp of a new generation and Promised Land. This land is not only a designated boundary--it is the world entire. We, every generation before us, and each generation that will follow, are eternally standing at the border between now and better-than-now. It is up to us to choose between reacting to how we've been treated or finding an alternative.

Hope exists in the recognition that the world is changeable. We live in a global environment that we inherited from our parents' generations, but they are no longer the drivers of our destiny. We get to choose to be the new generation at every moment. We get to choose hope over reaction and thus cultivate a pathway out of the given paradigm of reaction and into a new one based on a fixed moral center. 

Jewish history is filled with other nations treating us in kind and unkind (to be heavily understated) ways. We are now standing at the perpetual beginning with a new generation who has only known the wilderness. What stories will we tell them? What are the lessons of slavery we want to hold? What are the battles, won and lost, that we will remember? With what words will we steer the next generation into the Promised Land?

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Sarah Margles

Sarah Margles was an Education Officer at American Jewish World Service. She earned her Masters Degree in Jewish Education at the Hebrew University and completed a Certificate of Advanced Jewish Study at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem.