Parashat Devarim: Storytelling
Eyleh hadevarim, these are the words that begin the final book in the Torah, as well as this week’s Torah portion, Devarim (aka “words” in English). It begins, “These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel… It came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first of the month, that Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that the Lord had commanded him regarding them (Deuteronomy 1:1-3).” Moses retells the Israelites the story of their journey from the Exodus to the Promised Land. I feel like Moses did something similar last week. G-d told Moses to record all the “starting points” of the Israelite journey. Why have Moses record everything, and then tell it? What is so important about speaking the words out loud? To end one book with a recording and start another with a telling? Does it mean anything? G-d really wants us to remember. It seems like G-d really doesn’t want the Israelites of this generation as well as future generations to forget where they came from. Where we come from.
So, what does storytelling do? Why do we tell stories? One of my favorite authors Patrick Rothfuss once said, “It's like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.” Perhaps, G-d just wanted to get the story out of the Israelites heads because it was a story that need to be recorded and said. It was story meant to be alive, meant to define us and grow over time. We the Jewish people were built from this story and many others. That’s why it had to be told and remembered in as many ways as possible. This story was the start of a People, a Nation. It has to live, and we are the ones who continue to grow it.
Tonight at your Shabbat table, think about how you tell your story. The story you keep in your head and the stories you tell people. Who are you? Think about the Jewish story, our History. Think about how each of us tells the story we are a part of. What do we want build? Who are we? Where do we go from here?