“… Let it Begin with Me!” Quick Comment: Parashat Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1 – 3:22)  

”“These are the words,” begins the Book of Deuteronomy. The “words” recap the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the Children of Israel in the wilderness. It is a set of farewell speeches by Moses to his people before he relinquishes the reigns of leadership.

As we read through the book we see discrepancies in details of previously described events.

For examples, in Exodus 18 Jethro sees Moses on the verge of burn out. Jethro tells him that he needs to delegate responsibility and set up levels of leadership among the people. He essentially says, “Let others decide the little problems and you just worry about the really big ones.”

Jethro’s initiative saved Moses and the Children of Israel from collapsing under the administrative burdens of leading a large people through the wilderness. But in Deuteronomy, Jethro gets no credit. The idea is Moses’ alone.

I know that people often see history differently.

For more than eleven years I have been jousting both in person and online with a prominent Palestinian advocate. Our views of history are very different, Eleven years and hundreds of emails later we are still talking past each other.

We are exactly where we started: two intelligent people no closer to agreement than on the day we met.

Perhaps it would be better if we debated less and affirmed each other’s historical view more. I will try.

Will anything change? I do not know, but Jill Jackson Miller’s famous song advises, ”Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

History often has many versions. We improve our chances of creating a more just, caring and compassionate world if we are willing to listen with empathy to those not our own.

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