For the week ending 12 October 2019 / 13 Tishri 5780

Parshat Haazinu

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Most of the portion of Ha'azinu is a song, written in the Torah in two parallel columns. Moshe summons heaven and earth to stand as eternal witness to what will happen if the Jewish People sin. He reminds the people to examine world history and note how the Jewish People are rescued from obliteration in each generation — that Hashem "pulls the strings" of world events so that Bnei Yisrael can fulfill their destiny as Hashem's messengers. Hashem'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 their morals. They worship empty idols and indulge in depravity. Hashem will then let nations with no moral worth subjugate Israel and scatter them across the world. However, the purpose of these nations 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, Hashem will remind them that they are no more than a tool to do His will. The purpose of the Jewish People is to make mankind aware of the Creator. Neither exile nor suffering can sever the bond between Hashem and His people, and in the final redemption this closeness will be restored. Hashem will then turn His anger against the enemies of Israel. Hashem then gives His last commandment to Moshe: That he ascend Mount Nevo and be gathered there to his people.


A Copper Penny

"For G-d’s portion is His people; Yaakov is the measure of His heritage.” (32:9)

Once there was a young boy standing in the courtyard of the shul in Vilna. He was bent over, his eyes scouring the pavement, searching intently for something. He looked here and there. Occasionally he would stoop lower and examine the ground to see if he could find what he was searching for. In frustration, tears began to well in his eyes.

The time came for mincha, the afternoon prayer, and the courtyard began to fill with people. They all noticed the little boy crying and searching. "What are you looking for?" they asked him. "My mother gave me a copper penny and I lost it on my way to cheder (school)," was the tearful reply. Everyone started to help him look for the copper penny. They scoured the courtyard. Not a single square inch was left unexamined.

It was not to be found.

Someone said to the little boy, "Show me exactly where you were when you lost it." In all innocence, the little boy replied: "Actually I didn't lose it here. I lost it in the street." "So why are you looking for it here in the courtyard of the shul?" came the startled reply. "Because the street is all muddy and dirty and I didn't want to soil my shoes."

The mystical sources teach us that there are many worlds above this one. Compared to those worlds, the world in which we live is a very dark dank place. A place of messy physicality. A place of concealment. If "G-d’s portion is His people; Yaakov is the measure of His heritage," then why did G-d put us in this lowly world? Why didn't He put us in a higher, more spiritual world?

The Torah is the essence of the whole creation. If it were not for the Torah, the physical world and all its myriad laws would never have come into being. The Torah does not exist for the benefit of the incorporeal spiritual beings who inhabit the upper worlds. G-d wanted the Torah to be in this lowest of the worlds. Therefore, G-d also put us into this world so that we should involve ourselves with His Torah, day and night.

When a jewel is buried in the mud, there's no alternative but to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. If we search for riches where there are none, even if we conduct the search in climate-controlled, air-conditioned luxury, we won't even end up with a copper penny.

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