The theme of the Parasha this week is literally:
When you come into the land
All our lives are journeys. We move from our childhood homes to independence and then, sometimes, after a series of dwellings, we find what we hope will be our ‘forever home’.
Each of our homes contains memories, of challenges, of hopes and of joys and also of sorrows. The Sedra sets out blessings and curses but it begins with the bringing of the first fruits as a sacrifice It is a message of joy, of hope and of thanksgiving.
The problem with memories is that they tend to be edited and sometimes refashioned as we grow older. We are human and may embellish what we recollect. We remember good things in golden light and bad things as dark events which we cover up.
As we prepare to cross the Jordan there is the instruction to set up great stones, covered with plaster. The setting up of stones was very much part of the world at the time Conquerors set up stones called Stele engraved with their deeds because carved stone will endure. So why did we cover our stones with plaster? You can write on plaster but, like memories, the words can fade over the years.
The plaster would be inscribed with a record of our history and the covenant. But we were also instructed to set up an altar for sacrifice and celebration. Our inheritance would be to celebrate the festivals with joy and also for us to copy the Torah from one generation to another. That way the memories would not fade.
At the end of the Sedra we read:
Yet until this day, the Lord has not given you a heart to know, eyes to see and ears to hear.
Coming together for the festivals is our emotional heart. With our eyes we see that the Torah is still before us and with our ears we hear the words of the covenant and of our history.