At the end of those forty days and forty nights, the Eternal gave me the two tablets of stone, the Tablets of the Covenant.
Parashat Eikev gives us yet another reminder of why our Five Books of Moses are in fact ascribed to our great leader. In this parashah, Moses speaks to the Israelites, reminding them of their history and of their obligation to keep God's commandments when they enter the land of Israel. It is in Moses's telling and retelling of our story-the history of the Jewish people and the events leading up to our becoming a great nation-that the model for perpetuating our history lies. And it is our stories that define who we are.
It is no accident that we are perpetually reminded that we must tell the story of our slavery in the land of Egypt. This refrain not only appears in our Passover Haggadah (Haggadah means "telling"), but it makes a regular appearance in our liturgy. Why is telling our story so important? Because it is in the telling that we connect to those who came before us. It is in the telling that we learn not only of the fears of the Israelites and their struggles with faith, but we also watch the unfolding and development of their faith in one God.
No matter the source of stories, children are drawn to them like a bee is drawn to nectar, and so we have a great opportunity to pass our stories to our children. At first glance, there is much in the Five Books of Moses that seems to be inappropriate subject matter for young children. As a community, we read the Torah-the same stories, year after year-and we gain maturity, insight and perspective. There always seems to be something new that speaks to us even though the content does not change. As we read these same stories year after year, it becomes our responsibility, per God's command, to figure out how to tell our stories so they speak directly to the hearts and minds of our children.
This applies not only to the history of our people; it also applies to our own personal stories, and those of our families, our friends, our community and the greater world at-large. As parents and teachers, we often feel the need to be experts in things before we can teach them to our children. In this parashah, Moses, in his role as storyteller and leader of the Israelites, reminds us that keeping our stories alive by recalling and sharing them is a powerful teaching tool that we all have at our disposal.
As we tell these stories to our children, they look for common ground; for their own identities; for a way to believe that good will triumph over evil. Our children will internalize the values and beliefs in the stories they hear. Their behavior and their way of walking through the world will be affected, and they will in turn pass these stories on when it is their time to do so.
So make a difference: tell a story. Your story, stories you heard as a child, stories of our people. Allow your children to be the beneficiaries of your life. The stories that you tell will no doubt make a difference to them and to the generations to come.
Questions for Parents:
- Do you have some favorite personal stories that you tell your child(ren) repeatedly? What are the questions that your child(ren) ask when they hear these stories? What do you think they are learning from these stories?
- Do you feel that it is your role to share stories of Jewish history with your child(ren)? Why or why not?
Questions for Children:
- What is your favorite storybook? Why do you like it so much?
- Do you know any stories about your parent(s) from when they were little? What are your favorite things to hear about?
- Do you know any Jewish stories? If you do, what makes those stories different from other ones that you know?
Pages 1228-1240 in The Torah A Modern Commentary, Revised Edition by W. Gunther Plaut