At a recent Ruach board meeting Rabbi Rich shared his experience earlier this week of presiding at the brit milah (bris) of his new grandson. In addition to its obvious emotionally moving and religiously significant aspects, the ritual struck another deep chord. It reminded him that this covenantal binding of our people to HaShem has been repeated for thousands of years and continues to connect us profoundly to our past.
Recently, my daughter has been fascinated with the idea of making a movie about her great grandparents. As she discusses this project with me, I am reminded of the many stories my grandmother used to share which are now partially if not completely forgotten. When I was 40 years younger I wish I had recorded the antecdotes told to me by my mother and her mother. At the time they seemed interesting; now they would be cherished. So much of who we are today is a reflection of those who came before us. And as each generation leaves, it becomes harder to remember the many wonderful vignettes not to mention the lost lessons learned by our ancestors.
Although we tend to think that we live in a unique time that is the best, or the worst, the truth is history tends to repeat itself. Granted, we may be trending up or down as a society but the rises and falls of civilizations bear many similarities. It is for that reason that humanity is hopefully learning from its mistakes. And compared to our ancestors of thousands of years ago we have hopefully become a bit more humane, tolerant, just. . . ?
With those many thoughts swirling in my head I became curious about the origin of the word “history” and was surprised to find the following from Merriam Webster:
“Middle English histoire, historie, from Anglo-French estoire, histoire, from Latin historia, from Greek, inquiry, history, from histōr, istōr knowing, learned; akin to Greek eidenai to know”
First Known Use: 14th century”
Interesting. . . First known use 14th century. . .
I’m actually a fan of the thought that HaShem may put subtle hidden messages around for us to discover. So I don’t scoff at the striped and pierced Manischewitz matzo as a stretch for I think it a possible example of Him sending subliminal clues to unsuspecting mainstream Jews and causing knowing smiles on the faces of the Messianic Jews. Similarly, I find it interesting that the actual word “history” did not come into English usage until the 14th century. Perhaps as the modern era began, our Abba felt it was time to raise awareness of “His story”. . .
At that time, as study was becoming more accessible to the common man, new English vocabulary developed to identify fields of knowledge, thus the word “history”. The meaningfulness of our connection to our past could be communicated more widely. The relevance of sociological and cultural patterns over time to the story of humanity could be shared with a new audience as the English language broadened the reach of this information.
Historical records were no longer readable only by the intelligentia or religious elite. Could it be that in the more recent centuries all, not just the select, are being led by our Abba to see the importance of cycles of decisions in the lives of the people He created? Through the study of history are we being shown our mistakes from which the next generation may learn? Are more now able to see the ramifications of ignoring the natural consequences of our excesses? Do the lessons of our ancestors help us to make wiser choices?
The first Scriptures to be translated into English from the Latin also occurred in the (you guessed it) 14th century, as did the (just couldn’t resist) Renaissance (meaning “rebirth”). Modern academia has shed amazing light on ancient writings, including the Scriptures. As these holy writings have been more widely translated, they have been more accurately interpreted. Brit Chadasha (New Testament) passages historically misinterpreted as anti-Semitic are now more fully understood by modern Biblical scholars based on an understanding of the audiences for the different NT writers and as a result of translation clarifications. More Christians understand their Jewish roots. More Jews recognize Yeshua as mankind’s Jewish Messiah.
Centuries are but moments to HaShem. And we are living in those moments. We are the beneficiaries of these bursts in knowledge started in the 14th century and which continue today. Clearly the most prophetic book of history is the Bible. And through our spiritually centered reading of the Word, the lessons of history are not lost.
May you have a week deeply immersed in “His story”.