Parashat Ha’azinu – Erev Shabbat 17 September 2021 (5782)
Week of 11-18 September 2021
Torah portion: Deuteronomy 32:1-52 Haftarah: Hosea 14:2-10
Theme: The Lord, the father who protects and loves
Ha’azinu (listen) consists of a “song” of approximately 52 verses that was delivered by Moses to the People of Israel on the last day of his life: “Hear, heavens, I will speak, hear earth the words of my mouth” (Deut. 32:1). There are two songs ascribed to Moses in the Hebrew Bible. The first one is Song of the Sea, “Hebrew: Shirat HaYam, also known as Az Yashir Moshe” (Exodus 15:1-18).
In this Parashah we see a vision of the past, a summary of the present, and an anticipation of future events. The song recalls tragic events, but also ones of great joy that will constitute the future of the people of Israel. Moses makes it clear that the entire existence of the people of Israel depends on the fulfillment of the precepts given by God and also on the teaching of these precepts to future generations.
Despite recounting tragic and horrible events “(t)hey will walk weakened by hunger, consumed by fevers and malignant epidemics” (Deut. 32: 24). Ha’azinu brings hope to those who faithfully fulfill what God has taught: if the people maintain the connection with the Torah then they will always remain alive.
The “song” emphasizes God’s power and caring nature, which is contrasted with Israel’s unfaithful response. We see the analogy between God and a father, a nurturing and protecting father. He hovers over the Jewish people like an eagle, ever watchful and caring. In Deut 32:4, we see the comparison between God and the Rock (There is Tzur): “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, his ways are just”: this term denotes steadfastness. The Lord, like a rock, is the only one who provides stability and immutability in our lives. Solid faith is faith in solid rock. Storms will come, but our foundation will remain firm when built on it.
Of all the interesting points that this parashah presents us, I would like to pay attention to the comparison that Moses makes between the Torah and the rain: “Let my doctrine descend like rain, distill like dew my word” (Deut. 32: 2). Water is a symbol of life and purification, just as water is essential to human beings, the Torah is also essential to all those who believe because from it springs life. The Torah also brings joy just like rain in times of drought, as it is a sign of God’s gift.
Ha’azinu presents us with much more than a warning; the song presents us with the truth that when we embrace faith in God, happiness is a certainty. When we forget these teachings, we will be on our own. In these days in which we live, we are often focused on ourselves. The song of Moses is a reminder that God has done wonders for us, and that it is up to us to return his love with love by transmitting his teachings to the rising generations and by following The Torah.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. God asks us that his teachings be passed on to all generations. How have I witnessed my faith to others? 2. At this time of repentance, conversion, and new beginnings what am I inspired to do to live in love?
Bibliography: McKenzie, J.L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965); The Jerusalem Bible-Popular Edition. Plaut, The Torah, A Modern Commentary (UAHC New York 1981). Fox, The Five Books of Moses (Shocken, Random House New York, 1997); GROSS, Fernando. O Ciclo das leituras da Torah na Sinagoga: Judaísmo e Cristianismo. (Loyola: São Paulo – 2014)
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Nayon Nigel Cezar, Brazil, ISPS-Ratisbonne: collaborator