Have you read this bestselling memoir, “Face to Face: My Life and Times with God and the Israelites,” by Moshe Rabbeinu?
You’ve surely read at least some of it. It’s the Book of Deuteronomy, the first portion of which we have been reading this week.
Deuteronomy begins with Moses retelling the history of Israel, from after the encounter with God at Mt. Sinai through 40 years in the desert. We have Moses’ personal slant on these events, tinged with his reflections about his role during these important years. His voice is personal; he confides his feelings along with his memories of what occurred.
We know how Moses fits into history, and not only from his memoir. This book has some of the same features that we have come to expect in the memoirs of politicians: Many of the events are familiar because they have been extensively reported, but the writer adds items that are new. There are explanations, arguments, revelations and sometimes self-serving defenses.
But whether in Deuteronomy or the rest of Torah, all agree that Moses speaks and acts out of a sense of a sacred calling to serve God and the Jewish people. To be sure, he had his moments of doubt, and some would say he had a problem with anger management; but he remains our greatest prophet and teacher.
And what about you? Do you have a sense of fitting in to a great holy endeavor? What is your personal sacred calling?
You have one; you are a Jew. You are part of a people that has views about the world around us and voices to express them. You possess a vast, profound and strikingly beautiful tradition of teachings to guide you. You have learned from your elders and taught (maybe without knowing it) your peers and those who come after you.
How have you, how do you — will you contribute to the sacred history of our Jewish people? There are precious few of us who will become famous for our Jewish achievements. What is more important is to be a willing and active contributor to the flow of Jewish life that sustains us all.
Don’t be too modest. Every time you read and discuss a Jewish text, your donations to charity, every time you engage constructively with the Jewish community and its institutions, every instance of your support of the State of Israel—with each of these you are adding to your indelible page in the great and ongoing book of Jewish history.
Like Moses, you are face to face with God and the Jewish people. Try writing your own Jewish memoir, one that coming generations will be grateful to read and study.
Shabbat shalom! PJC
Rabbi Paul Tuchman is the rabbi of Temple B’nai Israel in White Oak. This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh RabbinicAssociation.