“Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.”
As someone who loved learning about history in school, I always found this saying inspiring. Our history, whether it’s of the Jewish people, the United States, or the world, gives us a roadmap for how to approach the many decisions and situations that appear in our lives each and every day. And our Torah portion this week reiterates this idea.
In Parashat Ki Teitzei, the Israelites receive dozens of commandments as we prepare to enter the Promised Land. After several of these commandments, we read:
“Always remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment.” – Deuteronomy 24:22
As rational as the many commandments about family life, animals, property, and farming are, we’re reminded of our history as slaves in the land of Egypt and the oppression that we’ve faced. Without these reminders about our history, the Israelites may have been doomed to fall into similar situations, or, even worse, repeat the oppressions of Pharaoh. The portion’s last words are a triumphant, “Do not forget!”, challenging us once again to remember who the Israelites are and the experiences that have brought them to this point.
We’ve all learned various lessons in our lives that have come to shape who we are and what we believe. By knowing our history – our family history, the key experiences in our lives, our values that guide us along the way – we can continue the journey of becoming our best selves and living our best lives.
About the Author: Evan Traylor, originally from Oklahoma City, currently works at the Union for Reform Judaism and is an aspiring rabbi. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 2016 studying political science and Jewish studies. Evan loves reading, traveling, exploring DC, and cheering on the KU Jayhawks.
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