Tuesday, 21 June 2016
Religion and Cultural Memory (tr. Rodney Livingstone),
Jan Assmann, Stanford University Press, 2006, page 17
Assmann moves to using the book of Deuteronomy as a prime example of the way cultural memory is arranged. He takes us to the plains of Moab and shows us Moshe impressing upon the people the memory they must take with into the Land - because he will not be there with them to remind them of what has happened since they left Egypt.
In this scene everything is significant. Wha we have here is a liminal situation, a threefold transution, moreover. Spatially, the scene marks the crossing of the Jordan, the transition from the desert to a fertile land. Temporally, it marks the end of the forty years' wandering in the desert after the exodus from Egypt. Forty years is the limit of a generation; the passing of the generation of contemporary witnesses and the transition from the lived, embodied memory to a tradition that is to be handed down from feneration to generation. Thirdly, it marks a changed way of life, from the nomadic life in the wilderness to a settled existence in the Promised Land. A more drastic change of circumstances can scarcely be imagined.
The Children of Israel now stand in the greatest danger of forgetting who has brought them thus far, of neglecting their G-d and losing their identity.