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The war against forgetfulness

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

There are no sharper words than those contained in Moshe's warning that we read on Shabbat: "Beware for yourself and beware greatly for your soul". Such words are spoken only where grave danger is concerned. And what exactly is this danger that demands our attention? "Lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen and lest you remove them from your heart all the days of your life."

Rav Netanel Elyashiv has written in this new book "Devarim Tovim" that this passage encapsulates the secret of the entire book of Devarim (Deuteronomy): the determination of Moshe Rabbeinu to fight against our all-too-human tendency to forget what is holy and dear to us because of our daily lives and our grinding routine, or because of an infinite number of other reasons and excuses.

So our mission in life is largely to engage in a continuous war against forgetfulness. Both in the sense of not forgetting certain things and in the sense of remembering to place the right things in the center of our consciousness.

This was not only a challenge for the Children of Israel in the desert who were present at the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai yet were likely to forget and fail to pass along what they saw in a living, heartfelt, and meaningful way to the next generation. This is also our challenge, here and now, as Moshe requests in the continuation of the passage: "And make them (the things you saw) known to your children and your children's children."

This is the headline of the book of Devarim that we have now begun to read. And this is the challenge for all of us: to be vigilant not to forget the most important things.


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