This week’s parsha, Parshat Ha’azinu, is centered around the song that Moses delivered to the people of Israel on the day before his passing; a song full of life lessons and words of wisdom. The themes of the song touch on the Jewish people’s journey to Israel, taking advantage of the wealth that one may happen upon in his/her life, and the meaning of sacrifice. More specifically, Moses sang: “Remember the days of old. Consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will recount it to you. Your elders, and they will tell you.”
Even though Moses first recited this song thousands of years ago, the messages it contains are still relevant in today’s day and age. Moses reminds us how before reaching your goal or destination, it is important to stop for a few minutes and reflect on your journey. Just like Moses asked the Jews to ask themselves, “What can you do differently to minimize your wandering in the desert to arrive in Israel sooner,” it is important to ask ourselves similar questions while we journey through our own lives. Ask yourself: what allowed or furthered your successes? Who helped to guide you along the path to success?
Being mindful of ourselves and how we operate is essential to growing as individuals. However, sometimes we do get lost, and that is okay. Straying from your predetermined path is a part of life; a part that will help you to gain valuable experiences that may even contribute to your future successes. Whether those successes lay on the path you were originally on, or if they take you on a whole new journey, overcoming hardships is crucial for self growth and self understanding.
Throughout the last year and a half, we all found ourselves forced to stray from our original path when the COVID-19 pandemic made its way across the world. We were required to wear masks, practice social distancing, and see our friends and family through a screen. Within weeks, the world turned virtual. We had no choice but to adapt. BBYO also took a virtual turn. All the events we are used to doing in person were all suddenly online. For example, elections were on Zoom and International Convention took place in all our individual homes, remotely. It was extremely difficult to feel engaged and connected. However, despite the difficulties we were forced to face, I believe it has made us all stronger, more resilient people. Although the circumstances have not been ideal, there have been some positive aspects to emerge from our struggles. We were able to identify who our true friends are. We rediscovered relationships that we thought were fleeting. It also provided us with a chance to reflect on our own lives. The global pandemic created time personal introspection, religious and secular. We have had the opportunity to get to know ourselves and the lives we want to live. When we finally get to remove our masks, we will be on our way to creating the best possible versions of ourselves.
In addition to the first verse, Moses also sang, “Yeshurun grew fat and kicked. You have grown fat, thick and rotund. They forsook G‑d who made them. And spurned the Rock of his salvation.” What did Moses mean by this? I believe this statement represents the idea that If we simply consume or waste everything in sight, we become fat with wasteful consumption, but, if we prioritize giving, we can put those extra resources to good use. Being in the mindset of selflessness and giving not only makes the world a better place, but it makes us better people. It helps us to realize that we should never take what we have for granted, whether that be supportive parents, family members, friends or even different forms of wealth. We often don’t take the time to thank the ones who have helped up on our own journey. It is important to be grateful for what we have and pass our resources down to others who are struggling with finding their own purpose in life.
The Parshah ends with G-d instructing Moses to climb Mount Nebo. While on the mountain He sees Israel, but ends up dying on the mountain before reaching it himself. “For you shall see the land opposite you; but you shall not go there, into the land which I give to the children of Israel.” Sacrifice is something that we often don’t think about. Our ancestors came to this country not knowing what to expect. Would there be religious freedom? Would there be opportunities for financial success? Would there be peace? More often than not, their reasons for immigrating to this country were for the good of their families, whether they were still overseas, or whether they wanted their children or future children to have better lives. Although Moses never got to be in Israel, generations and generations later, the Jewish people are still there. We must keep in mind the challenges that our ancestors have gone through, all to get us to where we are now.
These lessons of introspection, gratitude, and sacrifice all help us in our quest to lead meaningful and mindful lives. As we usher in a new year on the Jewish calendar, let us pledge to make these values an integral part of our daily life during the year to come.
NSR Shlichim, Molly Singer and Ben Glick
Read commentary on this week's Parsha from BBYO teens around the world.
All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.
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