One of the goals of storytelling is to convey a narrative that endures beyond the initial telling—to create something that lingers in the minds of listeners long after it has been told. In Parshat Devarim, Moses is a storyteller, transmitting the stories that transpired during the 40Stories have always been a fundamental form of communication years in that “great and fearful desert.”1

Moses is speaking to the Israelites as they make their final preparations for entering Israel. But on a deeper level, Moses, the storyteller, speaks to all of us.

Stories have always been a fundamental form of communication. They are the timeless chronicles that link us to our ancient traditions, archetypes, heroes and heroines. Through stories, we share passions, sadness, hardships and joys.

Stories connect us to value systems—to a larger self and universal truth. Through stories, we share collective meaning and purpose, and learn about mistakes and how not to repeat them.

The emotional content of stories allows the human memory to retain knowledge longer than information or facts alone. According to Daniel Goleman, author of the bestselling book Emotional Intelligence, this is because emotional attachment to information creates learning.

Perhaps Moses knew this.

So what is Moses conveying to us in Parshat Devarim?

In his storytelling, Moses rebukes the children of Israel, and he doesn’t beat around the bush. His words are a bit harsh. Moses uses history to remind the people that a lack of trust in G‑d and a failure to obey G‑d’s commandments will result in disaster, such as the tragic results of believing in the spies.

Moses is obligated to tell this story to our ancestors who are about to start a new chapter, but he also needs to tell us. Faith is our cornerstone. We need to hear how we encroached on faith. We need to learn and to remember so that when we are once again enticed by doubt, we can recall Moses’ admonishment.

But Moses does not linger over his people’s imperfections. At the same time that he censures the children of Israel, he uses select words to embolden and uplift them. Later, by recalling the victories over neighboring lands and kings, Moses proclaims that G‑d is a warrior who does battle on behalf of Israel: “The Lord, your G‑d, who goes before you, He will fight for you, just as He did for you in Egypt before your very eyes.”2

Once again, Moses is obligated to tell this part of the story—highlighting our triumphs, focusing on our partnership with G‑d and reminding us of the power of returning to faith.

Events happen in all of our lives that cannot be changed. People experience poor decision-making and losses that cannot be undone. The children who were about to enter the land could not change the decisions of their fathers, and nor could we. But the ways in which these events are expressed can make a considerable difference on their effects.

Moses, the storyteller, is communicating to us that despite epic blunders, G‑d did not leave us, and we did not leave him. We regained His trust; we regained our passageway into the Land of Israel.

Indeed, Moses’ words seem to have a special ability to penetrate the heart and give us hope.

Something that penetrates the heart penetrates our emotionalDespite epic blunders, G‑d did not leave us being. Remember what Goleman asserts? This is how stories help us learn. This is how storytellers help embed memories in us. This is how we share in collective purpose and meaning. This is how we can clarify our own values regarding faith and trust.

“ . . . Watch yourself very well, lest you forget the things that your eyes saw, and lest these things depart from your heart, all the days of your life, and you shall make them known to your children and to your children’s children.”3