A person can live from day to day, or he or she can have a clear goal in life. For such a person, every major decision is made in terms of that goal. Some people are so strongly and pure-heartedly focused on their goal that even apparently minor decisions and ordinary, everyday activities are firmly directed towards their aim and hope in life.

The same can apply to an entire people. Throughout their history, the Jewish people have had a series of goals which interconnect with each other. This Shabbat we find two of the central goals linking together. The first concerns the weekly Torah reading.

This begins the fifth book of the Torah. This book, Devarim (Deuteronomy), differs strikingly from the other four books. The earlier books of the Torah are focused on recounting events as they take place: the creation of the world, the Flood, Abraham’s life, his descendants being enslaved in Egypt, going free in the Exodus, receiving the Torah at Sinai, building the Sanctuary, and various specific events during the forty years in the wilderness.

By contrast, the fifth book consists of talks by Moses to the Jewish people in the last year of his life, preparing them to enter the Land of Israel. The fifth book is focused on the future: aware of the past, but preparing the Jewish people for something which is going to happen.

The Jewish people have already gone through many different stages of experience, including bitter slavery and wandering in the desert for forty years. They are now ready to enter the Promised Land, and together with their leader Moses they can look confidently towards the future.

This is one way in which this Shabbat expresses reaching towards a goal: the Jewish people are poised to enter the Holy Land.

Now we come to a second, complementary goal. This week’s reading is always read on the Shabbat before the fast of the Ninth of Av. This fast commemorates the destruction of both the first and second Temples, and many other tragedies. Yet the Ninth of Av is more than a gloomy lament about the past. In its inner essence, it too generates a bold and expectant gaze towards the future.

Why? Because we are able to look back at two millennia of suffering, and in particularly at the horrors of three-quarters of a century ago. We have traveled through our wilderness of history. Now we are able to look forward, with the perspective of Jewish teaching, towards the coming of Messiah and the rebuilding of our beautiful Temple in Jerusalem.

It is true that we have many times seen many tears in our long past. In recent centuries, and in recent decades, we have also seen much confusion. One may indeed wonder, reading the daily newspapers, what does the future hold? Yet our sages are clear in their view: the future is filled with joy.

The key message as to how we should face this radiant future, prepare for it and make it happen, is expressed by the concluding verse of this week’s haftorah (reading from the prophets): “Zion will be redeemed through justice [Torah], and its captives [will go free] through charity” (Isaiah 1:27). Through Torah study, teaching justice in all aspects of life, and good deeds such as charity, we can make the glorious future, the goal of Judaism, for us and all humanity, happen now.1