D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
Repetition is the cornerstone of recovery
In a conversation with his rabbi, a friend of mine many years ago mentioned how much he appreciated on Shabbat morning the meditative paragraph following the Amidah that begins: אֱלֹהַי, נְצוֹר לְשׁוֹנִי מֵרָע, וּשְׂפָתַי מִדַּבֵּר מִרְמָה וְלִמְקַלְלַי נַפְשִׁי תִדֹּם, וְנַפְשִׁי כֶּעָפָר לַכֹּל תִּהְיֶה -- My God, keep my tongue from evil and my lips from lies. Help me ignore those who slander me. Let me be humble before all.
My friend appreciated this paragraph because since it was hard for him to keep his own tongue from evil and lips from lies and to practice humility, he benefited from this weekly Shabbat morning reminder. Without missing a beat my friend’s rabbi quipped: you’re right it is hard to remember these things. That’s why we recite those words three times every day in each of our daily prayers.
This week we begin the Book of Deuteronomy, also called Mishneh Torah-- a repetition of the Torah. Why is Deuteronomy called a repetition of the Torah? Well, because it is just that – a repetition of laws and narratives already documented in the four previous books of the Torah.
So, if repeating a prayer that encourages humility on a regular basis was helpful for my friend, could it be that repeating stories in the Torah might help the Israelites remember to follow God’s laws? That would seem to be part of Moses’ motivation, especially since his time with the Israelites was coming to an end and he was perhaps feeling compelled to tell the Israelites one last time what he thought they should know.
What’s good for Moses and the Israelites can only be good for the rest of us. So at the risk of “repeating” myself, pardon me if I reiterate -- repetition is the cornerstone of recovery.