Remembering and taking the time to recount our past, even when the events recounted are unflattering or horrific, is necessary in order to truly understand and appreciate our difficult and great moments.
The 2012 Summer Olympics in London begins tonight, kicking off Games that mark the 40th anniversary of the Munich Olympics. There, in 1972, a terrorist group by the name of Black September killed 11 members of the Israeli team. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has steadfastly refused to honor these lost lives with one minute of silence tonight. In this week’s Torah portion, Moses addresses the entire nation, on an otherwise happy occasion, and recounts the nation’s hardships and embarrassing behavior.
The Torah portion of Devarim opens with Moses’s final address to the nation. The nation assembled at the mountain of the Amorites and Moses told the Israelites to seize the land, which G-d had given to them. Moses then instituted the necessary judicial system, with judgment that was true and just.
Moses then recounted how spies, one from each tribe, scouted the land of Canaan. He talked about the false reports by ten of the spies and the panic that ensued instead in place of what should have been trust in G-d. In the end, that generation never saw the land, with the exception of Caleb and Yehoshua Ben Nun, who gave true accounts of the land and argued that it could be conquered.
Moses also recalled how members of Israel turned from G-d’s word and tried to conquer part of the land without sanction from G-d, which led to death and a lack of favor in G-d’s eyes. Moses then recounted the events of 38 years later, when Israel was warned to stay clear of certain territories, including those promised to the decedents of Esav. In their efforts to avoid these places and seek an entryway into Israel, they were attacked on multiple occasions, but come out victorious.
The portion ends with part of the tribe of Menashe and the tribes of Gad and Reuven dividing up the conquered land.
Moses, unlike the IOC, understood the importance of remembering difficult and sad moments in history, even on the most happy of occasions. Jews around the world have rallied for a moment of silence to honor the 11 murdered Israeli athletes, but their requests, pleas, and petitions have fallen on deaf ears. Tonight, while the opening ceremonies begin, we must each take the appropriate action and honor those who will not be remembered publicly by the international community.
Learn more about the history and controversy, or lave a comment or prayer at Jspace’s Virtual Munich 11 Memorial.