You’ll notice that throughtout sefer devarim, Moshe repeats the history of the last 40 years and much more to the Bnei Yisrael. The question is why exactly repeat all this; at it’s base, what exactly is the role of history!?…
Ever wondered why the word history is called His-story? In Hebrew it spells out ‘The hiddenness of G-d.’ Mysterious! Well, it’s not so mysterious, because history, like more than we think, is a great lens through which to look at the Divine Hand. This is essentially what we do on pesach seder night; the central focus is to retell the story of the Exodus, and some even act parts of it out!
In fact, the sfas emes raises a similar point about a certain contradiction in the shemoneh esrei; first we say ‘elokeinu velokei avoteinu’ ie our g-d and the g-d of our fathers – we go
chronologically backwards in time from us to our fathers. But then we say ‘g-d of avraham, g-d of yitzchak, and g-d of yaakov – going chronologically forwards in time? The sfas emes answers beautifully that there are two types of Jews; some are inspired by looking first at the present; eg at HaShem’s wonderful natural world (do you know how complicated the human body is; there are a thousand million million connections in the brain’s 1300-1400g!). Other Jews are inspired by looking at the past; at our amaing history; how we have survived persecutions and exiles just as HaShem promised us – we are the only nation is their history of the world to have returned to their homeland 3 times after exile. These 2 phrases in our amidah are so both of these Jews may gain inspiration. In fact, these are the two ways the Rambam says (hilchos teshuva) one comes to ahavas HaShem – via looking into His Deeds or His Creations.
In the sedra of ki tissa, HaShem tells Moshe in a very deep pasuk “You will see my back but not my front” (33;23). The Kotzker Rav explains that HaShem here is giving a timeless message to the Jewish People – ‘you will see Me when you look backwards [in time] but not when you look forwards.’ Often we don’t understand the reasons for some events in life, and only later with hindsight do we appreciate their significance. Our job is to realise that we have an obstructed view and cannot see the entire picture. This also means on the positive side that we should try and grab every opportunity we get presented with.
Let’s end with a (true) story…There is a small shul in the centre of New York City with a regular shacharit minyan. Now one morning a few years ago a highly unusual thing happened; there were only 9 men there. So they waited a bit for a tenth man (remember they needed to get to work) until after several minutes, an old Jew showed up. He insisted he’d lead the davening, and the others agreed. However, he was taking such a long time the other 9 were starting to show frustration. ‘who does he think he is? Does he not realise we have to be at work already? Suddenly they hard a massive explosion and an overwhelming crashing sound. They went towards the door to see what had happened. It was September 11, and the nearby World Trade Center Towers had been attacked. Some of the people at this minyan would have been inside if shacharit had been on time. They felt the relief as they had realised their lives had been saved by this ‘new chazzan.’ As they turned around to thank him, they realised he had gone. And he has not been seen since. (The gemara says that spending increased time in the shul causes a long life by the way)
HaShem is guiding the plan and we can be rest assured we are in strong hands and outstretched arms waiting to receive His people.