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Parashat Ha-azinu (Deuteronomy 23:1-32:52)

“For the name of the Lord I proclaim; Give glory to our God!” (Deut. 32:3)

On each day of Rosh Hashana we recite the phrase, hayom harat olam, today the world is created, three times. Parashat Ha-azinu reminds us this is not only the beginning of history, but also an ongoing, daily and dynamic process. (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 opens with Moses’ final song: “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and may the earth hear the words of my mouth.” (Deut. 32:1). The Meor Einaiyim (1730-1797; Rabbi Menachem Twersky of Chernobyl) connects this soaring poetic imagery to the creation of the world through speech. He says the world is created through God’s words of Torah. God then gives the Torah to Israel to complete the world’s creation. Since the Torah is the source of everything, the angels hunger for and listen for words of Torah. When we speak those words, it is as if God speaks, and therefore the “heavens listen.”

The second half of the couplet (“…May the earth hear the words of my mouth”) evokes the revelation at Mt. Sinai. The rabbis teach when God proclaims, “I am Adonai your God…” (Ex. 20:2) the words emerge from everywhere in the world at once (Babylonian Talmud Zevachim 116a) and, “…The whole earth is filled with God’s glory.” (Isaiah 6:3). When we speak words of Torah, we imbue the space around us with k’dusha, sanctity. Ha-azinu, then, exhorts us to partner with God to create (and recreate) a better, world each and every day.

Gut Yontif, Gut Yohr/Chag Sameach, Shana Tova
Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom


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