Torah Weekly - Parshat Ha'azinu

Become a Supporter Library Library


Parshat Ha'azinu

For the week ending 8 Tishrei 5761 / 6 & 7 October 2000

  • Overview
  • Insights:
  • This is your Life
  • Haftara Shabbat Shuva
  • A Burning Sensation
  • Love of the Land
  • Kiryat Shemona
  • Back Issues of Torah Weekly
  • Subscription Information
  • Ohr Somayach Home Page
  • This publication is also available in the following formats: [Text] Explanation of these symbols



    Most of Parshat 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 Jewish People's purpose 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.




    "Be careful to perform all the words of this Torah,
    for it is not an empty thing for you, for it is your life." (32-44)

    Life is about sorting out what's essential from what's merely "nice."

    It's essential to have a roof over your head. It's nice to have a view from your bay windows. When you buy a car, it's essential to have four wheels. It's nice to have air-conditioning front and back.

    One of the challenges of living in our world is sorting out life's essentials from its optional extras. This is made even more difficult by the fact that there is an entire industry dedicated to convincing us that life's optional extras are really essentials. "Can you afford to be without X?!" "Y will change your life!" "Buy Z and you will never be alone again!" The essence of advertising is to convince us that life's optional extras are its essentials.

    In this week's Torah portion there is a verse that contains a strange counterpoint: "Be careful to perform all the words of this Torah, for it is not an empty thing for you -- for it is your life."

    There's a long way between being an "empty thing" and life itself. The natural corollary of an "empty thing" isn't life, it's something which is something less than empty, something partially full, containing some meaning -- but life itself? There are a million levels of importance between emptiness and life. Why did the Torah choose such a dramatic juxtaposition?

    Most people would agree that the Torah is far from "empty." The Torah is the foundation of the moral and judicial systems of the vast majority of the civilized world. Its emphasis on the rights of the poor, of the underprivileged, of animals, of the duties of children to parents, husbands to wives, of society to its members, is unparalleled in the history of Mankind. But the Torah is more than just meaningful. It is the source of life itself. When G-d created the world, He looked into the Torah. The matrix of human life are its letters and words.

    "It is not an empty thing for you, for it is your life." The Torah is not merely "not an empty thing," it is not merely an admirable and advisable code of behavior. It is Life itself.

    • Based on an idea heard from Rabbi C. Z. Senter
      in the name of Rav Sherkin in the name of the Chafetz Chaim

    Haftara Shabbat Shuva

    Hoshea 14:2-10, Yoel 2:11-27, Micha 7:18-20



    An unbelievable sight. A young fellow with all the visible signs of an Orthodox Jew walks into MacTreife's Burger Bar and orders a cheeseburger! He then proceeds to eat it in full view of everyone.

    Later he suffers tremendous heartburn from the indigestible fast-food. Much later, however, he suffers an even greater "burn" in the spiritual department.

    The Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat of Return. The name is taken from the first verse of the Haftara: "Return O Israel to Hashem for you have stumbled in your iniquity."

    The Meshech Chochma asks the question: What does it mean to "stumble" in iniquity? If a person is already doing something wrong, how can he make it worse by stumbling in it?

    There are two aspects to wrongdoing. The offense itself and the desecration of Hashem's name that may result from it.

    It's one thing for a Jew to slink into MacTreife's in "plain-clothes." It's quite another to waltz in wearing full uniform, yarmulke and all. It's one thing to commit iniquity, to give in to one's desires, but it's quite another to stumble and desecrate Hashem's name in public.

    Love of the Land
    Selections from classical Torah sources
    which express the special relationship between
    the People of Israel and Eretz Yisrael


    Ever wonder at the meaning of the name of this northernmost city, which was always in the news because of katyusha attacks from terrorists in Lebanon?

    Back in 1920, Josef Trumpaldor, founder of the Hechalutz pioneer movement in Russia, died along with seven other Jews defending the Tel Hai encampment against Arab hordes. The base for this attack was the small Arab village of Halsa. On its site now stands Kiryat Shemona ("The City of Eight") as a memorial to the eight heroes of Tel Hai.

    Love of the Land Archives

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Michael Treblow

    © 2000 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved. This publication may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue newsletters. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission, and then send us a sample issue.

    This publication is available via E-Mail

    Ohr Somayach Institutions is an international network of Yeshivot and outreach centers, with branches in North America, Europe, South Africa and South America. The Central Campus in Jerusalem provides a full range of educational services for over 685 full-time students.

    The Jewish Learning Exchange (JLE) of Ohr Somayach offers summer and winter programs in Israel that attract hundreds of university students from around the world for 3 to 8 weeks of study and touring.

    The Ohr Somayach Home Page is hosted by TeamGenesis
    vj_bar.gif (1798 bytes)

    Copyright © 2000 Ohr Somayach International. Send us Feedback.
    Dedication opportunities are available for Torah Weekly. Please contact us for details.
    Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) EIN 13-3503155 and your donation is tax deductable.