For the week ending 23 September 2017 / 3 Tishri 5778

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.


Nothing Like the Torah

"And Yeshurun became fat and kicked" (32:15)

Sir Moses Montefiore (1784-1885) was one of the greatest and best-loved statesmen and communal leaders in the history of the Jewish People.

He was born in Leghorn, Italy and grew up in London. In 1827, he made his first visit to Eretz Yisrael. His stay in the Land had a profound effect on him. He became religiously observant and from then until the end of his life, Sir Moses was scrupulous in all areas of mitzvah observance.

It happened that one Shabbat the great Sage known as the Chatam Sofer stayed with Sir Moses. Sir Moses was overjoyed to have the honor of hosting such a great Torah scholar and he did not stint to honor his guest in every way. And not just physically. As was his way, Sir Moses was more concerned with the spirituality of Shabbat than its physical side.

Sir Moses was a humble man. He did not want to pass up the opportunity of correcting even the smallest infraction of halacha, and so after Shabbat Sir Moses took the Chatam Sofer aside and said to him, "May I please ask your honor if there was anything you saw about our Shabbat that was not in accordance with that which is written in the Torah?"

The Chatam Sofer replied immediately, "I saw nothing here this Shabbat that was in accordance with what is written in the Torah!"

Sir Moses' jaw dropped. Could he really believe his ears?

Continued the Chatam Sofer, "It says in the Torah: And Yeshurun became fat and kicked. Rashi explains this means that the Jewish People became rich and prospered because of G-d’s kindness, but neglected the service of their Creator.

"I have spent a Shabbat with someone whom the Creator has blessed with great wealth, and yet everything is done in the service of the Most High. So you see, nothing I have seen here this Shabbat is accordance with what is written in the Torah!"

  • Source: Heard from Rabbi Yehuda Samet

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