Ask your Father and He will Tell You. Your Grandfather and He will Say to You

It is important to learn history for the lessons contained within it, not just history for its own sake. “Remember the days of old, understand the years of generation after generation. Ask your father and he will relate to you, your elders and they will tell you.”

The first Rashi on the Bible seems to disagree by asking why we need the first book of the Torah, Genesis (Bereshit). His question and answer implies that the Torah is not a history book but a moral and ethical work that reveals God’s will to us. 

There is a famous debate between Rashi and Ramban as to whether or not the historical details of the Torah are in chronological order. Rashi takes the view that the message is more important than the form. According to him the chronological order is not as important as the message the Torah is relating. Sometimes the Torah puts certain incidents together to emphasize a message, not because the two incidents are chronologically in order. In contrast, Ramban holds to a literal view. He insists that the Torah is both a historically valid document that is chronologically accurate, and a moral code. 

What they both agree on is that the Torah is a moral and ethical Divine code for living life to the fullest potential. The history of the past is important if it helps us to live more moral, ethical and fulfilling lives.

The Torah is a moral guide that teaches us how real men and women grappled with life’s difficulties, and how God wants us to act. The goal of the Torah is not to teach us history for the sake of cold scholarly research into past civilizations, but to grant us insight into how to conduct our lives and deal with the problems and issues that we face daily. 

A person who has delved deeply into Torah cannot help but be amazed at its tremendous insights into human psychology and behavior. The beauty of how the Torah meshes within itself and with the world is truly amazing and points to its Divine origin.