The mandate to live in the present is not only directed towards the judges; it is expected of everyone, and it is an essential element of the democracy of Jewish worship.
Humanity has succeeded in defying the limitations of space; to fly to outer space, to send out drones to the far reaches of the universe, to shrink the world into a single interconnected global village, to magnify the power of the tiniest atom. But the limitations of time still defy and enchant us. We have a deep yearning to know the future, and the religious personality, who believes in the mystical unknown, all the more so.
Forget about it, God tells us. What typified the deeply religious Canaanite culture was precisely this, a multitude of ways to divine God’s plans for the future. But we are commanded to be ‘tamim‘, to be straightforward, and not to “investigate the future”, as Rashi explains.
In this context, the Torah explains that having a prophet, like Moshe, wasn’t the original plan. When God made His covenant at Sinai, He made it with the Jewish people as a whole, without any intermediaries, and revelation would have continued that way were it not for the request of the Jews themselves. Even after adjusting the plan, the prophet’s role is presented so that it can only serve to enable God’s connection with the people, and not interfere with or control it. A prophet has extremely limited esoteric ability to contradict God’s word as it is available to all the people. And as far as guiding people by predictions of the future, our chapter explains that we can only know whether a prophet is true in hindsight, if his predictions come true. Until then, we are bidden to live our life simply, tamim, day by day. The final lines of the wonderful time travel movie “About Time” sum up the Torah’s message beautifully.
“The truth is I now don’t travel back at all, not even for the day, I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.”