Our past and present stories connect, strengthen Jewish people

In 5783, we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel

Rabbi+Brigitte+Rosenberg+is+senior+rabbi+at+United+Hebrew+Congregation+and+a+member+of+the+St.+Louis+Rabbinical+and+Cantorial+Association%2C+which+coordinates+the+d%E2%80%99var+Torah+for+the+Jewish+Light.+

Rabbi Brigitte Rosenberg is senior rabbi at United Hebrew Congregation and a member of the St. Louis Rabbinical and Cantorial Association, which coordinates the d’var Torah for the Jewish Light.

RABBI BRIGITTE ROSENBERG

Just before his death, G-d allowed Moses to ascend Mount Nebo and view the land of Israel from a distance. Can you picture it? 

An elderly Moses, in long white robes, leaning on a staff atop a mountain, content and looking out over the land G-d promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I wonder, what Moses was thinking at that moment? Could he have imagined the history that was to be created in the place that was laid out before him? In looking out over the land, could Moses have imagined that, centuries later, there would come exile and then a thousand plus years of wandering before returning home again?  

Moments before ascending Mount Nebo Parashat Ha’azinu, Moses offers his last words to the Israelites: 

“Listen, remember the days of old, consider the years of ages past. Ask your parent, who will inform you, your elders, who will tell you:” (Deut. 32:7)  

ADVERTISEMENT

Moses’s words in Parashat Ha’azinu remind us that the past plays an important part in our lived experience, that no matter where we are, we are connected to one another and to G-d  through our shared experiences.   

As American Jews, so often we focus on our own experiences, stories and history, and do not always see ourselves in the larger story of the Jewish people. How many of us know our own family’s story of coming to America? It is likely that we know what our families created after arriving here, but do we truly know what they left behind and why? 

So often, we forget because that is not the story we want to remember. And yet, it is a part of who we are. It is a part of the larger Jewish story that needs to be shared and remembered. It is from these stories that we learn resilience, hope and connection.  

This year, 5783, we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. What a milestone and miracle for all Jews! Moses’ words in Ha’azinu remind us that to celebrate, we must remember and tell the story of how we got to and are connected to this miraculous moment. 

If we were to ask our parents and grandparents, what would they tell us? Would they remember how they felt when the State of Israel was declared? Would they remember how they felt in June 1967 or Yom Kippur 1973 when the existence of Israel was in question? 

What are the stories that we could share? Stories of Operations Moses, Joshua and Solomon, the 1984-91 airlifts of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. 

Stories of seeing Israel’s prime ministers shake hands for the sake of peace, from Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at Camp David in 1978, to Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat in Cairo in 1994. 

What stories could we tell to help us understand Israel and all its complexity while appreciating how far Israel has come in 75 short years? What stories could we tell that would ensure our collective connection to the Land of Israel?  

For millennia, no matter where we have been or what has happened, our collective stories are at the heart of our Jewish communal identity. It is our stories passed from generation to generation that have enabled us, no matter what, to remain resilient, strong and always full of hope. 

May we continue to remember and tell our stories, so that our children and future generations will know and forever ensure  Am Yisrael Chai!