This week’s parsha contains Moshe’s final speech, a song to the Israelites – but because it comes on the immediate heels of two days of Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) this year, it is impossible not to be looking for echoes of the liturgy from the wider holiday season when reading this parsha. One of the phrases of the holiday is היום הרת עולם – today, the world was conceived. An echo of that phrase is heard in the seventh verse of the parsha (a parsha extremely hard to truly grasp, due to its poetic language).
The verse reads: “Remember the days of the world (ימות עולם), understand the years of every generation; ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 32:7, translation mine). Coming right after verses explaining how we are un-endingly in Hashem’s debt for even being alive after all of our sins, this verse strikes a different chord, beseeching us to look to the past for guidance. Yes, we may be flawed humans, but we are also capable of transmitting a great deal of wisdom – the Torah herself being a prime example. As Moshe is nearing the end of his life, and as we are nearing the end of the year, this verse is reminding us to wipe the slate clean, but not too clean. We do not want to wake up to a new year having forgotten all of the lessons our past has to offer us. We must keep those close, and consult them, and the living sources of wisdom all around us, as we approach a new year full of possibility.
May we all find the strength to begin anew in the coming days, with renewed focus and motivation to be the change we want to see in the world, without forgetting the ways we have already learned to avoid pitfalls new and old.