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Parashat Ha-azinu (Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52)

“Like an eagle arousing its nest/Hovering over its young, Spreading His and taking them/Carrying them on His pinions.” (Deuteronomy 32:11)

Parashat Ha-azinu is the last parasha (portion) to be read on a regular Shabbat morning. That is because V’zot Habracha, the last parasha of the Torah, is read only on Simchat Torah. Ha-azinu includes soaring poetic imagery describing Israel’s destiny, which is to stray from the Torah and be punished by God. Of course, Moses makes one last effort before he dies to persuade the Israelites to alter their fate.

Moses commands, “…Set your hearts to all the words that I testify against you today, asher t’tzavum, with which you are to command/instruct your children…” (Deut. 32:46). S’forno (~1470-~1550; Italian commentator and physician) connects t’tzavum (usually meaning to command) to tzava-ah, which means a last will and testament. S’forno understands the motivational power of deathbed words and imagines Moses hopes the Israelites, who haven’t listened to him much while alive, will do better after he dies.

But S’forno knows Moses is savvier than that. So, when Moses proclaims, “…Is He not your father, your master? Has he not created you viy’chon’necha, and brought you into existence?” (Deut. 32:6) S’forno connects viy’chon’necha to hachana, to prepare. Moses dedicates his entire life to preparing the Israelites to live lives guided by the Torah. Moses, the greatest teacher, knows the most effective way to teach is by modelling. So he pleads with the Israelite to look not only at his final words as his last will and testament, but at his lifetime of deeds demonstrating God’s truth. Moses’ plea (and his model) is as relevant today.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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