In today’s politically correct world, absolute inclusion is often a barometer of an organisation’s credibility. In Jewish history, we began with total inclusion when we stood at Mount Sinai for the giving of the Torah. We are told that we gathered there, k’ish echad, b’lev echad – as one body with one soul, unconditional equality. No Jew can say that they have a greater portion in the Torah or Judaism, no one has a better heritage or pedigree.
Forty years later, when the next generation was preparing to enter the Land of Israel, Moshe gathered them all together and gave a month-long valedictory speech. On the final day of his life he recalls the Covenant at Sinai and once again includes the entire Nation. This time though there seems to be a difference, as Moshe spells out the different classes; leaders and elders, men, women and children, woodcutters and water-drawers. Why the necessity to spell out all the varying classes of people? Surely we were still ‘one body with one soul’?
I believe that the answer is to be found in the first word of the Sedra, אתם – you. Those three letters also spell the Hebrew word for truth, אמת. Our Rabbis teach us that אמת is specifically spelt with the first, middle and last letters of the Aleph Beis. This is to teach us that something that is true, must be consistent throughout; there is no such thing as being 99% true. Moshe therefore uses those same three letters and addresses the nation אתם – you. You are ALL standing here today before Hashem. From the top to the bottom, across all strata of society; businessmen and labourers, leaders and followers, young and old, everyone is here. And in Hashem’s eyes that is the truth.
When we were standing at Mount Sinai we were all actually equal, but now forty years later as society had progressed divisions had naturally developed. Nothing sinister just the reality of life. Yet Moshe had to tell them, specifically at this juncture before they entered into the Holy Land and began a new chapter in our history; a chapter of Tribes in different areas of the country, a chapter of working the land and home ownership. It would have been all too easy for those who considered themselves at the top of the pile to forget that everyone was there equally at the start. It might have erroneously, albeit innocently, occurred to those who maybe hadn’t progressed as far, or who hadn’t risen politically, to belittle themselves and forget their true worth. So Moshe specifically spells out all the classes and says, ‘you are all standing here before Hashem, just as we all were forty years when we left Egypt. You are still ‘one body with one soul’ and THAT is the Emes.
That truth that Moshe was telling them must permeate throughout all circles of our community. It is not by chance that we always read this Sedra right before Rosh Hashono. Some people come to Shul and feel that they aren’t as worthy as others, but they could not be further from the essential Truth that is Judaism. On Rosh Hasono and on Yom Kippur we will read in the emotional Unesaneh Tokef prayer how everyone comes to pass under the Almighty’s staff as He counts us individually, but you don’t need to wait for that evocative moment to realise your true worth. Know it today. Know it with a Truth.