Tuesday, August 28, 2007

JTS Weekly Torah Commentary

-R. Marc Wolf - JTS Weekly Torah Commentary:
The sixteenth-century Italian commentator Moshe Hefetz writes on this verse in his commentary on Ki Tavo, 'You witnessed all those great wonders but only appreciated their full significance just now, at this time, after they had receded from view, as if you had to this point lacked sight and hearing' (Milekhet Mahshevet, Warsaw Ed., 315). Hefetz is observing that the people of Israel did not understand the miracles because they needed distance from them. It was their time in the desert, wandering, gaining perspective, and experience and growing as a people that allowed them to appreciate the full significance of the miracles. ...

The true significance of the Exodus was not in the signs and wonders, but in the time it took for the people to become Israelites. Their experience in the desert served as the vehicle for transformation from a wandering mass to a People ready to live as a Nation in the Land of Israel. Moses' statement, then, cannot be viewed as a critique, but as a compliment. B'nai Israel had made it through the desert and had matured into the people with "the mind to understand, the eyes to see and the ears to hear."

With Judaism, we are continually in and out of "the woods." This month of Elul leading up to the High Holidays is time in "the woods." Elul has traditionally been the month for introspection, a month to take our individual heshbon ha'nefesh (accounting of our soul) and examine our relationship with God. It is a period to develop as individuals to emerge like b'nai Israel from the desert with the mind, ears, and eyes we need to approach Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

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