Jewish Memory

Picture of Rabbanit Shani Taragin

Rabbanit Shani Taragin

Rabbanit Shani Taragin is Educational Director of Matan-Bellows Eshkolot Tanakh-Teachers Training Institute, World Mizrachi Lapidot for Halachah Teachers, and United Synagogue Ma’aleh – Women’s Advanced Torah Programme.

"Rabbi Sacks would often speak of the importance of not just history, but Jewish memory, which reinforces our national and personal story, values, and mission for the future. As he explains based on this week’s parsha, “People who carry their past with them can build the future without fear.”"

Torah Trivia

Question: Which parsha is the shortest in the Torah?

In 2017, I attended World Mizrachi’s celebration of Jerusalem Day in Binyanei Hauma (ICC) along with thousands of others, in honor of fifty years of a reunified Jerusalem. I was sitting just seats away from Rabbi Sacks – the keynote speaker. I recall not only his passion and fervor but his powerful message that resonates as I read his words on this week’s Torah portion, for it was the last time I would hear Rabbi Sacks speaking just a few feet away from me. He spoke about Yerushalayim representing our legacy of the past and dreams for the future:

“No other people in all of history has had a relationship with a city to compare with ours – with Yerushalayim ir HaKodesh…”

It is said that in the early 1800s, Napoleon was passing a shul on Tisha b’Av, and he heard crying and tears and wailing and lamentations, so he asked one of his officials, “What are the Jews crying about?” His official said to him, “They’re crying because they’ve lost Jerusalem.” Napoleon said, “When did they lose Jerusalem?” The official replied, “1700 years ago.” Napoleon replied, “A people who have mourned Jerusalem so long will one day have it restored to them.” And so it was. 

Rabbi Sacks would often speak of the importance of not just history, but Jewish memory, which reinforces our national and personal story, values, and mission for the future. As he explains based on this week’s parsha, “People who carry their past with them can build the future without fear.”

The new series of Covenant & Conversation: Family Editions features one new voice each week. We hope that this will further illuminate the ideas of Rabbi Sacks and encourage others to continue these conversations with the next generation, as we share the stories and ideas of Rabbi Sacks scholars.

A Closer Look

Rabbanit Taragin now shares some of the deeper ideas he learnt from Rabbi Sacks.

Did anything puzzle you in this week’s sedra? How did you make sense of it?

Rashi explains that when Moshe Rabbeinu addresses the nation at the beginning of parshat Nitzavim with the covenantal oath “not only with you who are standing here with us today… but also with those who are not here with us today” (Devarim 29:14), he’s referring to the future generations yet to come! How can Moshe Rabbeinu ask Bnei Yisrael to bind their unborn descendants to uphold the covenant, to impose obligations on them in their absence, without their consent?! 

Rabbi Sacks helped me make sense of this by explaining that Hashem calls on us in every generation to continue the story of our ancestors. We are free to decline, but doing so means that we are denying part of who we are, heirs to our history, our personal and national identity.

As he wrote in A Letter in the Scroll:

“We cannot order our children to be Jews.  We cannot deprive them of their choice nor turn them into our clones… I can tell them where we came from, where our ancestors were traveling to, and why it was important to them that their children should carry on the journey. This is our story, unfinished yet. And there is a chapter only they can write.”

That is why we must write our own Sefer Torah – to underscore this message.

What influence did Rabbi Sacks have on your approach to education?

Rabbi Sacks lived the message of this week’s parsha, which has impacted how I learn and teach Tanach, weaving his experiences and insights into the Torah text as a personal and national conversation. Moreover, as we find in this week’s parsha, Torah is called a “Song” to be written and taught. Rabbi Sacks always has – and continues to – inspire me to sing its magnificent melodies and harmonies as Hashem’s “choral symphony.”

 

Share It!

Get The Daily Elul Challenge In Your Inbox