For the week ending 26 September 2009 / 7 Tishri 5770

Parshat Ha'azinu

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Almost all of Ha'azinu is a song, written in the Torah in two parallel columns. Moshe summons the heavens and the earth to stand as eternal witnesses to what will happen if the Jewish People sin and do not obey the Torah. He reminds the people to examine the history of the world, and note how the Jewish People are rescued from obliteration in each generation - that G-d "pulls the strings" of world events so that Bnei Yisrael can fulfill their destiny as His messengers in the world. G-d's kindness is such that Israel should be eternally grateful, not just for sustaining them in the wilderness, but for bringing them to a land of amazing abundance, and for defeating their enemies. But, this physical bounty leads the people to become self-satisfied and over-indulged. Physical pleasures corrupt the morals of the people. They worship empty idols and powerless gods, and indulge in all kinds of depravity. G-d will then let nations with no moral worth subjugate Israel and scatter them across the world. However, their only purpose is as a rod to chastise the Jewish People. When these nations think that it is through their own power that they have dominated Israel, G-d will remind them that they are no more that a tool to do His will. The purpose of the Jewish People is fundamental - that man should know his Creator. Neither exile nor suffering can sever the bond between G-d and His people, and eventually in the final redemption this closeness will be restored. G-d will then turn His anger against the enemies of Israel, as though they were His enemies, showing no mercy to the tormentors of His people. G-d then gives His last commandment to Moshe: That he should ascend Mount Nevo and be gathered there to his people.


Kreplach and Kabbala

“Moshe spoke the words of this song…” (31:30)

Is there another religion in the world that combines Kabbala and kreplach? Is there another faith that soars from "The Jewish Mother" to Our Father in Heaven?

There's something very unusual about Judaism. It combines the most heimish with the most holy.

There may be religions with deep ideas (usually borrowed from Judaism), but there is no other religion in the world that manages to be both so down-to-earth and at the same time so transcendent.

I remember someone saying to me on hearing that Judaism teaches that there is a correct and incorrect way to tie one's shoes, "Rabbi, I find it hard to believe that G-d actually cares about which shoe I tie up first."

I said to him that seeing as G-d made everything in the world, it would be to accuse Him (chalila v'chas) of extreme sloppiness if there was anything in this world that was superfluous. Everything must be in some way connected with His plan. That there might be vast or even small areas of unnecessary stuff in this world is theologically impossible.

This week's Torah reading is called Ha’azinu. The whole of Ha’azinu is a song. The Torah is called a song.

Nothing is superfluous in a song. The chorus and the verse have to segue perfectly. Nothing is 'just there'.

The Torah is music. Every piece of music in the world from the most arcane warbling of an Afghan sheep herd to Julie Andrews shares something in common — a scale.

The word scale comes from the Latin scala, meaning a ladder. Every ladder in the world connects the top and the bottom. No ladder, to the best of my knowledge, just stops in the middle.

Just as the musical scale connects the highest and the lowest, likewise the song that is the Torah connects the highest worlds to this lowest of all worlds.

It connects the kreplach with the Kabbala.

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