Parshat Vayeilech: United We Stand
Deuteronomy 31:11

בְּב֣וֹא כׇל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל לֵֽרָאוֹת֙ אֶת־פְּנֵי֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ בַּמָּק֖וֹם אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִבְחָ֑ר תִּקְרָ֞א אֶת־הַתּוֹרָ֥ה הַזֹּ֛את נֶ֥גֶד כׇּל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בְּאׇזְנֵיהֶֽם׃

“When all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God in the place that God will choose, you shall read this Teaching aloud in the presence of all Israel.”

By coincidence, I recently came across a shirt given to me in the weeks after 9/11, with the words “united we stand” printed on it below an American flag. After such a tragic national moment, reading those three words gave me a sense of healing . We were never going to let the attackers tear our country apart. We lost those towers and thousands of innocent lives, but the fabric of our society was stronger than ever.

I can’t say the same thing twenty years later. Many of us can’t remember our country as polarized as it is now, and this just after twenty years, when unity prevailed. It is as if we forgot that we shared a tragedy, and instead started blaming each other for it. Would this be the same if we had an American law similar to the one stated here? Gather everyone and recall our history: our triumphs, our failures, our pain – our story. 

As Jews, we owe our longevity to being the people of the book. Despite the differences between Jewish communities, we revere our shared history. It is not all pretty. It is, in fact, rife with tragedy. But when we remember where we come from, we remain united. This is why right when we are finishing the Torah, we are reminded that the book is never to close. If we stop remembering the stories and the values we share, we forget ourselves in the process.