It’s hard enough imagining a time without the internet, let alone books. But that’s what it’s like to be an ancient Hebrew. Moses keeps repeating these same stories about the People over and over again, not because he’s lecturing or thinks that the Hebrews are too stupid to remember, but because there isn’t exactly a library of Jewish history sitting around the traveling camp.
It’s like in the book Fahrenheit 451 where an underground society of people called “book-keepers” each memorize a book in order to preserve knowledge. In the same way, Moses is turning each of his people into a living book…a living Torah, in fact. Instead of writing all the laws and stories on parchment, he demands that each person become a Torah in themselves, and collectively, the People of the Book.
One thing that particularly struck me about the portion this week was Moses recalling the time he appointed judges and magistrates to help him “mete out justice” and teach “the word of G_d”. Moses is basically saying:
“Hey, remember that time I tried to do everything myself and I couldn’t? Yeah, well you can’t either. Ask for help from each other and together anything can be accomplished.”
If even Moses himself, the pinnacle prophet of Judaism needed to get help from those around him, how much more do we? This is one of the key teachings that he leaves with the Israelites as they head into the Promised Land: you will need help, and you have to look to each other for it. No one, not even the prophet of G_d Almighty can do it alone.