Weekly Torah Commentary – Ha’azinu September 25, 2014

Ha’azinu Devarim/Deuteronomy 32:1 – 32:52

In Parshat Ha’azinu, Moses addresses heaven and earth in what has come to be called the Song of Moses:

Listen, O heavens, and I will speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. (Devarim 32:1)

Moses calls upon heaven and earth to bear witness to his words; he is aware that his death is imminent, and he therefore calls upon the most permanent fixtures of the universe to be eternal witnesses. However, notice his choice of words: He invites the heavens to “listen” while he asks the earth to “hear”. Why is this significant?

The prophet Isaiah also used this phrasing:

Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth, for God has spoken: Children I have reared, and brought up, and they have rebelled against Me. (Isaiah 1:2)

Those of us who have raised children are well aware that there is a difference between hearing and listening. When calling a child to do a specific task, they “hear” your words but when it’s something they don’t want to do, they do not “listen”. Hearing is the first step in responding; listening – which means taking into oneself what was said and forming a response – is the second.

As Moses was facing death, he cried out that the heavens, that next world which he was about to enter, should listen closely to what he was to say to the children of Israel. The ‘heavens’ would serve as witnesses to God’s covenant and His calling of the nation to be a light to the rest of the nations and to walk in covenant love and faith with their God.

He then turns to earth and says, “hear” – in other words, perceive my words, let them register in your consciousness but understand that what God has promised to this nation is greater than you are, Earth. My covenant surpasses your domain and will stand firm for all eternity. Earth, you will see nations come and go; you will witness the trials and sufferings of God’s people but make no mistake about it, they will survive because the God who created you, Earth, is the same God who chose them and will keep them as His own forever.

Moses had the unique experience of standing before the Almighty on Mt. Sinai. He had the secrets of heaven revealed to him; he felt close with heaven. It would be understandable if he was only concerned with the honor of the the God of Israel.

But Moses was equally aware that he was both an emissary of God and, at the same time, an emissary of the People of Israel. As he delivers his final speech, Moshe reveals a bit of his own inner world – his soul was reaching toward heaven, but that did not eclipse his concern for those below on earth.

We have just entered a new Hebrew year, 5775. It happens to be a ‘Shemittah’ year – which the Torah prescribes as a year of rest for the Land of Israel. Farmers do not plant and harvest this year here in Israel. It is a ‘year off’ – a sabbath for the Land. What does this mean to us?

A Shemittah year is above all a year for deepening FAITH. It is a year when we can do nothing to generate our own provision. We are dependent upon God for everything, reminiscent of the children of Israel in the wilderness. It is a year for us to renew our recognition that our every breath, our every meal, our every need is dependent on a loving heavenly Father who delights to care for His children.

If we’re honest we must admit that we do not readily remember our dependence on Him, so taken up do we become with our jobs, our talents, our efforts. This is the year to remember, to be thankful and to learn the humility we all need for spiritual maturity. HE and HE ALONE is our Provider.

In Tune with Torah this week = repenting for anytime we have thought or felt that ‘by my own hand have I created this wealth’. It is God who grants us power to earn a living, to provide for our families, to meet the needs of others. It is all from Him. Have we thanked Him appropriately? Or do we prefer to nurture the feeling of being a ‘self-made’ person? God forbid! This is the year to acknowledge our dependence on Him, turn to Him in trusting faith and in humility, receive His blessings with a deeply grateful heart.

Shabbat Shalom

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