This week’s Torah portion contains the “Song of Moses”. According to tradition, there are ten archetypal songs throughout human history, all of which have been or will be sung at a climactic moment in Jewish history. This song is one of the nine already sung; we await the tenth at the revelation of Mashiach.
The Song of Moses, composed and sung just prior to his death, encompasses the full range of human history from creation to ultimate Redemption. Entire books have been written about the verses it contains. In this brief commentary, we will focus on only a few.
“Like an eagle rousing its young, hovering over its young, He spread His wings and took them, carrying them on His pinions. God alone guided them. There was no alien power with Him.” 32:11-12
Reminding the Jewish people of the Exodus, Moses uses the eagle as a metaphor for Hashem because it is the “king” of the bird kingdom, but also because the eagle shows great mercy to its offspring but to others, it is a fierce bird of prey. When Hashem took Israel out of Egypt on “eagles wings”, He revealed both qualities. To Israel, He was merciful, but on the Egyptians, He unleashed fierce and severe judgments. For the Jewish people ever since, therefore, the eagle has been a sign of Divine Favor.
Hashem led the Jewish people through the wilderness Himself for His presence was manifest in the Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night. Other nations are assigned an angel, as we learn from the prophets, but Hashem alone leads Israel. No mediator comes between Him and His people. This is why we read repeatedly in the Torah, ‘and the people did what Hashem told Moshe.’
In fact when Hashem forgave the people after the sin of the Golden Calf, He said to Moses, “I will send an angel before you. I will not go…” (Exodus 33:2-3) Moses’ immediate response was, “If Your Presence will not go with us, do not take us up from here.” The Jewish soul has always wanted a direct relationship with Hashem.
The positive sense of “being alone” is a trait shared only by God and Israel. Hashem is unique, distinct, incomparable. No other being can be compared with Him. This distinct quality He bestowed in part on His chosen people. Israel is a nation distinct and separate from the rest of the peoples, not because Israel is better than anyone else, but because it has been set apart and called to a specific mission.
Reading further, we come to these words: “When Hashem will judge His people, He will change His mind regarding His servants for He will see that the enemies power grows and they have no leader or support. He will then say, ‘Where is their god, the power in which they trusted?…See now and behold! I am the One. There are no other gods with Me. I kill and I give life. Though I wounded [My people], I will heal. No one can be delivered from My Hand….Let the nations sing praise to His people for He will avenge His servants’ blood. He will bring vengeance upon His enemies and atone for His people and His Land.” 32:36-43
The Sages of every generation have upheld the conviction that the Torah embodies the entirety of human history when truly understood. It encodes within itself the clues towards understanding what is happening in every generation. If we truly understood the Torah in all of its depth, we would need no prophets, no further scriptures. Sometimes this is difficult to perceive but this week, at this time in September 2012, it is amazingly clear.
We have just celebrated Rosh Hashana (the Day of Judgment) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). On Rosh Hashana each year, Hashem judges Israel and the entire world and decrees what will be in the year to come. On Yom Kippur, those decrees are sealed in His book.
Look again at vs. 36: “When Hashem will have judged His people…” It is hardly a ‘stretch of the imagination’ to recognize that this is exactly what has just happened. Though Israel is far from perfect, and our sins could justly deserve His punishment, the verse continues, “He will change His mind about His servants..” His mercy is greater than His judgement. Why? “…because He sees that their enemy’s power grows…”
Nothing is an accident with Hashem – nothing. On Yom Kippur, while all Israel fasted and prayed to be sealed in the Book of Life for good and for peace, at a podium in New York, the modern day Haman called for the extermination of Israel and its people. Look at Hashem’s response in this week’s parsha:
“Let the nations sing praise to His people for He will avenge His servants’ blood. He will bring vengeance upon His enemies and atone for His people and His Land.”
The ears of Hashem hear the rantings of His enemies for they are one and the same as the enemies of His people. Political pundits may comment, foreign leaders may debate, liberal thinkers may compromise, but let it be known from this platform that Hashem, He is God and it is HE Who will protect His Land and His people. As Prime Minister Netanyahu stated categorically and correctly in His speech to the UN last night (Thursday, September 27), every tyrant who has tried to destroy the Jewish people has perished but Am Yisrael Chai – the people of Israel live.
The portion of the verse that says, “He will atone for His people and His Land” does not denote a single event. It has happened many times, most recently in all the wars that Israel has fought since her re-birth in 1948, severely outnumbered, yet victorious by the Favor of Hashem. It will yet happen again for, as King David proclaimed in the psalms, ‘God is our Refuge and our Strength, a very present help in times of trouble.’
In Tune with Torah this week = it’s time to celebrate the faithfulness of our convenant keeping God, who is Faithful even when we are faithless, and whose covenant with Israel is forever. Stand with Israel and He will stand with you.