Parashat Haazinu – Erev Shabbat 11 October 2019
Week of 6-12 October 2019
Torah Portion:
Deuteronomy 32:1-52 Haftarah: 2 Samuel 22:1-51
Theme: Listen to Remember

As we approach the end of Deuteronomy, prepare to begin anew the Torah cycle, and celebrate the coming holy day, Moses’ final summon urges us to listen to never forget G-d.

One will notice that the two portions are lyric poems. The Torah portion is Moses’ theological song, reminding Israelites of their only stronghold, their ultimate Rock and Lamp – G-d. Similarly, David’s song, shirah is a song of deliverance, which likewise appears on Psalm 18, where G-d is also the “Rock.” For Moses, “Rock” is characterized with strength and security, which is attributed to G-d, and he also considers G-d as the “Lamp” who constantly illuminates and dispels the darkness in our life. What is the connection of these characterizations, the Rock and Lamp to Moses’ call to “Give ear”! (haazinu)?

It is noticeably an intensification of Moses’ call, from hearing to intent listening, “Give ear (Haazinu), O heavens, let me speak; Let the earth hear (V’tishma) the words I utter”! (32.1) Further, Moses summoned the Israelites, “May my discourse come down as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like showers on young growth, like droplets on the grass” (32.2), whom he urged to constantly strive to be faithful to the commandments. Most of all, Moses urged the Israelites to remember G-d, who they often neglect (teshi) and forget (tesh). (32.18) Hence, twenty-six chapters after he summoned them, “Hear, O Israel”! (6.4) Moses reiterated the necessity to remember G-d, their covenant and the commandments if Israel would want a good life. Israel has a history of forgetfulness of G-d and of the Torah that resulted to misfortune and destruction. The coming holy day is an opportune time to sort out our past year, for we may have missed the mark and neglected (teshi) the Rock – G-d who begot and brought us forth. That is why, in his final discourse, Moses urged them to hear (haazinu) and listen (v’tishma) to his call to remember G-d, the Rock whom we can rely and the Lamp that illuminates and dispels the darkness before us.

There is a difference between haazinu and v’tishma; the former is physical hearing, using the auditory senses to perceive sound, while the latter entails a conscious choice to listen in order to understand, to take what we hear to heart and respond with compassion or empathy.

The coming Holy Day invites us to take a moment to reflect on how we listen, to ourselves, to our families, friends and community. Let the moment help us sense how we perceive the words that we hear, if we hear the sound or the message it carries. Time after time, we hear the word of G-d, perhaps now it’s time to truly, consciously listen, so that we not only take heart the message of God, but more so live out the challenge of the prophets. Listen. Haazinu. V’tishma.

For Reflection and Discussion: [1] How do we perceive the words we hear, is it a positive or negative take? [2] Are we selective in listening? [3] Do we hear G-d’s voice or only the sigh of our breath and wind?

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