Va'etchanan: Remembering who you are

Each week Rabbi Ariana sends short reflections on the week’s parsha (Torah reading) to members. They are posted a week later on the blog. Sign up to be a member here, and receive these reflections before Shabbat each week.

It is easy to forget who you are.

The rush of each week's obligations, the chronic illness, the disease, the messages you get from others claiming they are the ones who know who you really are. 

It is easy to forget who you are. In your brilliant weirdness, gentle shyness, particular brand of gorgeousness.

It is easy to forget who you are, inheritor of deep and wide traditions, full of shining light and frustrating tautologies, deep commands to work for a better world, for all, now.

It is easy to forget who you are, a loving, compassionate person, when self protection tries to demand your hard shell.

This week’s parsha, Va’etchanan, calls on us to remember.

רַ֡ק הִשָּׁ֣מֶר לְךָ֩ וּשְׁמֹ֨ר נַפְשְׁךָ֜ מְאֹ֗ד פֶּן־תִּשְׁכַּ֨ח אֶת־הַדְּבָרִ֜ים אֲשֶׁר־רָא֣וּ עֵינֶ֗יךָ וּפֶן־יָס֙וּרוּ֙ מִלְּבָ֣בְךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל יְמֵ֣י חַיֶּ֑יךָ וְהוֹדַעְתָּ֥ם לְבָנֶ֖יךָ וְלִבְנֵ֥י בָנֶֽיךָ׃ 

But take utmost care and watch yourselves scrupulously, so that you do not forget the things that you saw with your own eyes and so that they do not fade from your mind as long as you live. And make them known to your children and to your children’s children: (Devarim 4:9)

Moses calls the people to remember, because it is easy to forget. Miracles that were so clear before us, the fire from which the voice of G!d came pouring forth, the mountain that shook and trembled...we get complacent. We settle where we have been journeying, and we forget the miracles we swore would be embedded in our hearts and the doorposts of our homes forever.

So, we must be reminded.

By the Torah, which retells us our foundational stories of trust, fear, and liberation.

By our calendar, which scoops us up into the flow of the seasons, reminding us to notice the earth, and ourselves.

By each other, when our friends, lovers, children, call out and ask, “where have you gone?”
By our world, when we are called to witness and act on behalf of the stranger, the widow, the orphan.

We are now firmly in the season of remembering ourselves, this 7 week period before the High Holy Days, kicked off after Tisha b’Av. In this period of preparation for the New Year when we are called to account, let us call our attention to the realness of who we are, what we believe, and how we want to move through the world.

Between now and Rosh HaShanah, my Shabbat messages will include a prompt for introspection to prepare for the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe. I invite you to reflect on it, write about it, make art about it, talk about it at your Shabbes table, dream on it, and ask other questions on top of it. May this time of preparation bear fruit, and offer us chances to find ourselves again, that when we run into that new year, it is with full presence of self and heart.

This week (one of seven):

What are the core values that shape you? How do you act on them?
How have you acted on your core values this year? How do you want to do so in the year ahead?

May this season bring comfort, may it bear fruit, may it call us back to ourselves and each other.