Abarbanel on the Parsha

For the week ending 7 September 2013 / 3 Tishri 5774

Parshat Ha'azinu

by Rabbi Pinchas Kasnett
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Abarbanel relates that this Parsha consists of 6 separate sections:

1. General introduction

2. The benefits that G-d has granted to the Jewish People

3. The transgressions of the Jewish People

4. The punishments that will follow these transgressions

5. G-d's initial intention to annihilate the Jewish People

6. Consolation and G-d's revenge against the enemies of the Jewish People

In reference to G-d's benefits, Chapter 32 verse 6 alludes to four specific types of kindness: "Is He not your Father, your Master? Has he not created you and set you up as a firm foundation? The verses that follow proceed to explain this verse:

1. 'Your Father' is a reference to the fact that G-d is the ultimate father. Just as he created the universe, he also created Mankind. This is what is meant in verse 7, "Remember the days of yore, and understand the years of generation after generation." G-d tells us to trace back through human history all the way to its very beginning and to recognize Him as Mankind's ultimate creator.

2. 'Your Master' is a reference to the Exodus from Egypt, when G-d 'acquired' us as His people. Even though succeeding generations did not experience the Exodus, verse 7 continues, "Ask your father and he will relate it to you, and your elders and they will tell you."

3. 'Has he not created you' is a reference to the Torah as a possession of the Jewish People. Verse 8 relates that G-d granted each of the nations of the world its particular portion. But the Jewish People received 'G-d's portion'. This refers to the giving of the Torah at Sinai, as it says in verse 10, "He discovered him in a desert land...He granted him discernment." By giving us the Torah, G-d has 'created' the Jewish People, a new creation, unique and distinct from the other nations.

4. The final kindness is giving the Land of Israel to the Jewish People. This is the meaning of verse 13, "He will make him ride on the heights of the Land." This refers to the conquest and settlement of the Land of Israel.

In Chapter 32, verse 13 G-d's concern for the Jewish people is compared to an eagle's concern for her young. A mother eagle shows concern for her young in four specific ways: As the verse says, "He was like an eagle arousing its nest, hovering over its young, spreading its wings and taking them; carrying them on its limbs."

1. When the eagle approaches the next, it signals with a distinctive whistling sound, so as not to startle the young.

2. The eagle does not descend suddenly on the young, lest she injure them with her talons. Rather, she hovers and descends slowly.

3. When she wants to move the young, she takes the entire nest at once in order to minimize the disturbance.

4. When she carries them, she doesn't carry them on any protruding feathers. Rather, she carries them on her body to minimize the risk of falling.

This is exactly how G-d dealt with the Jewish People during the Exodus. As the verse states, "You have seen what I have done to the Egyptians and I carried you on the wings of eagles."

1. When G-d decided to take us out of Egypt, He first sent Moshe and Aaron who functioned as an initial signal.

2. G-d did not immediately demonstrate his strength and power, as He did at Sinai. Rather, like the eagle, he 'hovered' over Egypt.

3. Just like the eagle, who takes the entire nest at once, G-d took out the entire nation, with all of its possessions, at one time.

4. G-d prevented the Egyptians from harming us by placing the Clouds of Glory between us and the Egyptian army.

Finally, verse 12 states, "G-d alone guided them, and no other power was with them." Just as the eagle can carry its young on its back since there is no other bird that flies higher and could threaten them from above, so too there were no other powers or intermediaries other than G-d Himself who could provide these benefits to the Jewish People.

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