As some of you surely know by now, I am a big fan of “Game of Thrones.” I started reading (and re-reading) the series years ago, and now that one can only find out what happens via the TV series, I’m addicted to the TV series. So, needless to say, I was very excited to watch the first episode of the new season last Sunday.
And because I’ve become a fan of the TV series, I was read with interest the announcement that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss – they are called the “showrunners” of “Game of Thrones” – have already lined up their next project called “Confederate.” The idea behind this new series is that the South successfully seceded from the Union back in the 1860’s and, as a result, there are presently two rival countries between Canada and Mexico.
I have no idea whether or not the show will be any good. However, I am intrigued by the idea of going back to a critical moment in history and taking an alternative path. Philip Roth did it in his book “The Plot Against America,” starting with the 1940 presidential election. Stephen King tried to undo the Kennedy assassination in “11/22/63.” And there are countless other examples in film and literature.
The truth is that we can probably all identify a moment in time to which we’d like to return and make a different decision in our personal lives. Very rare is the person who has absolutely no regrets. However, outside of these works of fiction, we know that it is impossible.
Instead, what IS possible is to face a similar set of circumstances later in life and make a different decision. In other words, we may not get a “do-over,” but we can learn from our mistakes.
We see an example of this idea in our Torah portion this week. As the Israelites were preparing to conquer the Promised Land, two tribes and half of a third one approached Moses about not wanting to settle on the western side of the Jordan River. They were content to stay on the eastern side. Moses must have been thinking, “Here we go again!”
It had been forty years since the twelve scouts returned from their mission and convinced the Israelites that it would be impossible to conquer the Promised Land. Moses thought that these tribal leaders would once again spook the Israelites. It was history repeating itself. He asked: “Why would you turn the minds of the Israelites from crossing into the land that Adonai has given them (Numbers 32:7)?”
However, these leaders had clearly learned from the missteps of the previous generation. Although they wanted to stay east of the Jordan River, they offered to be part of the conquest of the Promised Land on the western side.
Like the Israelites all those years ago, we may not be able to write an alternative plot line for scenes that have already played out. However, we can always learn from those scenes and create a different narrative for the upcoming new season.