The Biblical Call to Study History

Yael Eckstein  |  September 14, 2021

An open Bible laying on a wooden table with leaves on it.

Remember the days of old;
    consider the generations long past.
Ask your father and he will tell you,
    your elders, and they will explain to you.
— Deuteronomy 32:7

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Ha’azinu, which means “listen,” from Deuteronomy 32:1–52.

My father, of blessed memory, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of The Fellowship, was fond of saying that “God is immanent in history,” that we see God more clearly when we pay attention to the way that He is revealed through historical events.

Growing up around my father, he made me aware of the presence of God in history, especially around the festival season. As he himself wrote in his book How Firm a Foundation: “The festivals give meaning and character to the Jewish year. They attest to the fact that history is infused with divine purpose.”

Jewish faith and practice are, in fact, filled with an intense awareness of history. Our worship, our festival customs, and our education all work together to create a deep connection to God’s active role in the long sweep of time, connecting the present to the distant past. The more we appreciate the full scope of what God has done over thousands of years, the more we see Him clearly.

The Biblical Call to Study History

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the biblical call to study history. We are told to “remember the days of old; consider the generations long past.” This is an important part of how we learn about God. But the Bible doesn’t only tell us to read history books. It tells us who we are supposed to learn history from.

When we learn about the past from our parents and the elders of our community of faith, we gain more than just information about what happened. Our parents and elders teach us to personalize the events of the past and they guide us to a spiritual understanding that emerges from those events. They teach us to see God.

God is the great author of history. He reveals Himself to us in the fullness of His plan. And in our day, when so many ancient prophecies of the future are being fulfilled, we can rejoice and praise Him for what He has shown us.

Your Turn:

Think about encounters with past generations that you have had. How have the teachings of parents and elders impacted your understanding of what God is doing?