In this week’s parsha, Eikev, the children of Israel are on the cusp of their greatest triumph. After 400 years of slavery and 40 years in the desert, they’re about to enter Israel, the promised land.
Moses continues giving his speech to the Israelites, reminding them of the trials of their journey and the need to follow the commandments upon entering the land of Israel. Moses’ speech recasts all the experiences of leaving the desert in the form of a narrative; he is choosing what parts of the Israelites’ journey to retell to remind them of where they came from and where they are going.
Narratives offer two parts to every experience: what we remember from the moment itself and the story we choose to tell others after the fact. We don’t share every part of our past experiences, instead, we choose the details that are most impactful. These narratives we tell shape who we are to ourselves and who we are to the outside world.
Since returning from my 9th Joyce Zeff Israel Study Tour (IST) trip, questions like, “What was the best part?” and, “What will you remember?” have made me think about my own story with IST and led me to one moment that has stayed with me.
Our last Kabbalat Shabbat was at the Kotel (Western Wall)—the place Moses was promising the Israelites would one day stand. As with all IST Shabbatot, the teens lead the service, pick the songs, and bring the energy. In a moment, right before the Shema, while the teens stood in a circle with their arms around each other, I stopped everyone so they could turn and face the Kotel and imagine. Imagine all the people who stood here before them, all the people who never stood here but imagined it, and all the people at home or other places like Synagogue and camp who are facing this direction. Picture those people and reflect on how lucky and special it is for us to stand here together as representatives of the Colorado Jewish community. That moment, watching the teens and staff internally look back on the five-week trip and what it has meant to them and their Jewish journey, is the IST narrative I tell.