Haazinu


You can find the rest of the parsha text on Chabad.org at Haazinu.

24 thoughts on “Haazinu

  1. Wendy

    From Rabbi James Stone Goodman 2007

    O Holy Shabbes Inspiration Haazinu

    Give ear O heavens and I will speak
    And may the earth hear the words of my mouth
    May my teaching drop like the rain
    May my utterance flow like the dew
    Like storm winds upon vegetation
    And like raindrops upon blades of grass. [Deut. 32:1ff.]

    Remember the days of old.

    God is a rock
    perfect
    all God’s paths are just.

    From his hands Moses picked out a lightning bolt
    that had burned itself into his flesh
    he threw it to the ground
    Give ear O heavens
    may the earth hear the words of my mouth
    he plied a thunderbolt out of his teeth
    and buried it in the ground,
    he began to teach:

    God was like an eagle
    arousing its nest
    hovering over its young
    spreading its wings
    taking them
    carrying them
    touching and not touching. [Rashi on 32:11]

    Compassionate eagle
    gently returning to the nest
    not to disturb its young.

    Protecting eagle
    covering us in flight [Ibn Ezra on 32:11]
    as God covers us flying flying.

    Blessing dwells and awakens the life force within
    where we are rooted
    inwardliness – awakening the life force
    let the teachings drop as rain [Deut. 32:2]
    heaven and earth
    rain bringing forth fruit
    the stories and the written text.

    Remember the days of old.

    So you got fat [Deut. 32:15]
    God would have suckled you with honey from a rock
    and oil from a flinty stone
    butter of cattle milk of sheep
    fat of lambs
    but you became thick
    and kicked –

    well, you can always come back.
    Return, O Israel.
    Kick and drink the good wine from the grape
    unfermented blood of the grape.

    Give up your non-gods
    non-people
    become real.

    You’re a generation of reversals. [Deut. 32:20]

    Who is a rock
    who is perfect
    whose paths are just –
    what is the climbing vine
    the fructifying rain.

    Remember the days of old
    understand the years of generation to generation.

    Return O Israel to your God [Hosea 14:2]
    I will heal their disloyalty
    I will love them freely. [Hosea 14:5]

    Tell them
    they can always

    come home.

    Moses spoke all the words of this song
    into the ears of the people
    Moses and his successor
    Hoshea son of Nun

    God spoke to Moses on that very day

    apply your hearts to all these words
    for it is not an empty thing
    it is your life. [Deut.32:46-47]

    jsg, usa

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  2. Wendy

    From Reb Miles Krassen/Moshe Aharon

    Shirat Ha’azinu (The Song of Deep Listening)

    Compose this song for all your generations. Imprint it in the memory of the Children of Israel. Bequeath them a song to sing that will bear witness to My eternal Presence among them. (Devarim 31:19).

    On the last day of his life, Moshe received the inspiration to compose: Ha’azinu, the song of deep listening. (Devarim 32:1). For each year, as we complete the Torah, we lose a Moshe, in preparation for the birth of a new Moshe, the part of ourselves that can hear the vibrations of divine guidance and speak it as oral Torah in the New Year. When the old year’s Moshe recognizes its impermanence, it condenses its entire Torah into a song.

    For I know that without me, you won’t be able follow the way that I have been guiding you without going astray and that ultimately something that seems really bad will happen to you when you act in ways that disturb Be-ing. So Moshe whispered the words of this song into the collective memory of all Israel. (Devarim 31: 29-30).

    Listen deeply…. The Slonimer Rebbe says that this song is the most important parashah in the entire Torah.

    Balance the higher portions of the soul when I AM speaks, so that your body can also hear what is coming through. (Devarim 32:1).

    Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches us how important it is to make sure that our bodies have a share in the lessons that our souls are learning. As our Torah says of Herself, I am not just way up in Heaven… (Devarim 30:12). The greatness of Torah is not its lofty abstractions, but its power to make us more whole and integrated, right here in the manifest world. When our minds are calm and integrated with our bodies, we can unite Heaven and Earth and receive the lessons we need to positively affect what needs to be fixed in our worlds. To be effective, we need to develop the capacity to speak from the Heart. As the Talmud says:

    Whoever speaks while aware of the Divine Presence will be heard… (B.T. Blessings 6b).

    With this teaching in mind, the Rebbe Elimelekh reads the verse like this:

    Make sure you are aware that Heaven is listening whenever you speak, and then your words will have the power to enter other people’s hearts. (Devarim 32:1).

    Let me receive Torah from above like rain and let my prayer nurture growth below like dew… (Devarim 32:2).

    For I am bringing forth a new Name for Be-ing and making the G-dfield ever greater. (Devarim 32:3).

    It is a Hasidic teaching that as a result of our teshuvah practice, between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, we can draw down a new and more evolved manifestation of Be-ing (YHVH) into the New Year. When we think of G-d in too rigid a way, it makes our G-dfield too limited. Because we are made in the Divine image, when our G-d is too limited, our potential is also limited. Just as we need a new Moshe, we also need a new G-d in order for our souls and the world to evolve.

    The Ba’al Shem Tov told an odd parable that may seem shocking, but is really liberating when properly understood:

    Once a Queen wanted to test the gratitude of Her subjects. So She went out among them to distribute alms to the beggars of Her realm. There was one old woman, who whenever anyone gave her anything, would only say, “whatever you give, comes back to you.” Even when the Queen gave the old woman alms, she only said: “whatever you give, comes back to you.” The Queen was furious when she heard how the beggar responded to Her gift. She went back to the castle and asked the royal baker to make some especially fine pastries that were laced with poison. The pastries were delivered to the old woman. When she saw how fine the cakes were, the beggar decided to save them for the right occasion. A little later, the Queen’s son passed by and asked the beggar woman if she had anything for him to eat. She told him, “Yes, indeed. I have some very fine pastries from your Mother.” The prince ate the cakes and died. When the Queen realized that She was the cause of Her son’s death, She recalled the words of the old beggar woman: “whatever you give, comes back to you.”

    As long as our souls are developing in this world, our G-d is also evolving. Whenever we fall out of alignment with Be-ing, we “arouse Divine anger” and can expect to learn an appropriate lesson.

    The Shaper of Life acts perfectly, all Its ways follow the law of a G-d who is in training with us; there is no meanness, Its actions are straightforward and direct. (Devarim 32:4).

    Ultimately, G-d is also learning from our mutual dance. Our pain is also the Shekhinah’s pain. What we may perceive as Divine disapproval is really G-d suffering along with us.

    The Shekhinah is also impaired, the flaw is not just in Her children; the world is still unfolding, as yet only partially evolved. (Devarim 32:5).

    One of our challenges is to recognize that we are not only the children of Divinity, but also called upon to be Divinity’s parents.

    For Be-ing’s sake, won’t you be wise enough to rescue the Shekhinah? Didn’t your Divine Source place you here in the World of Assiyah for that purpose? (Devarim 32:6).

    The great kabbalist, Isaac Luria mythologizes this raising of the Shekhinah as the re-birthing of a new G-d. According to the Lurianic kavvanot (deep visualization practice) we view the ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur as a time when the old G-d undergoes surgery. During this operation, the sefirot of the Divine Female (the G-dfield) are separated and expanded, while the previous year’s YHVH (the Source of Be-ing) is anesthetized. When this operation has been completed, a new YHVH is awakened during the four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot. During Sukkot, the Divine union of male and female aspects of Divinity can be renewed.

    How can we possibly call a new YHVH into existence? Through the secret of:

    Neutralize Divine judgment with kindness. (Devarim 32:1)

    We can let go of our presumptions concerning what we think the G-d in our minds requires in order to be pleased with us and with others. Through greater kindness, which the Kabbalists call G-d’s greatness, we can now birth a kinder, greater G-d and draw a new YHVH into time and space.

    We need to put the crystallized idea of last year’s G-d to sleep, so that an independent Shekhinah can break free of last year’s confining exile. To accomplish this, we listen deeply to Moshe’s song.

    Always remember that the manifest world including its current G-d is but one configuration of the sefirot (seven powers of divine emanation) that are constantly changing. Turn to your Wisdom and receive guidance or ask your teachers and they will teach you. (Devarim 32:7).

    The way that the Supernal Source manifests in this world with its temporary boundaries and limitations always only reflects the present state of human consciousness. (Devarim 32:8).

    The portion of Divine Be-ing that can be established within the realm of human experience depends on the people who can overcome their sense of limitation (without dissolving). (Devarim 32:9).

    Such a one finds Divine Be-ing even amidst the mournful pain of desolation and confusion. Then Be-ing encompasses her, enlightens her, and preserves her like the apple of Her Eye. (Devarim 32:10).

    Like a giant eagle arousing her young, Be-ing raises one so awakened to Herself, resting only in Divine Be-ing, one knows that no other power truly exists. (Devarim 32:11-12).

    The unpleasant expressions of Divine “tough love” are inevitable parts of the dialectic of our relationship of returning to and from Be-ing. Regardless of how much we may feel trapped in them, Moshe’s song guides us to the deeper view:

    See now that I AM Present in everything. There is no other power besides Me. I AM is the Destroyer and I AM is the Enlivener; I AM has wounded and I AM will heal. Beyond My reach there is No-thing. (Devarim 32:39).

    If we listen deeply enough to this song, we can begin to sense the limitless No-thing from which all the disparate modes of Be-ing emanate. On Yom Kippur, we are instructed to ascend to a level of pure Divine Light that even precedes the emanation of YHVH. This Shabbat, the Shabbat of Returning, may this song be our guide.

    Amen.
    Rabbi Moshe Aharon Ladizhyner
    5766

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  3. Wendy

    ~ Rabbi Shefa Gold’s Torah Journeys ~

    Ha’azinu

    (Listen)

    DEUTERONOMY 32:1 – 32:52

    This porton consists of the final farewell song of Moses.

    THE BLESSING

    HA’AZINU BEGINS with Moses addressing Heaven and Earth, exclaiming the nature of Torah and the character of Divine blessing as it manifests in our world. It is like the rain that falls, giving Life to the Land. It is like the dew that moistens Reality itself, making it supple, fragrant, alive and fluid. After blessing us with these succulent and watery images of Divine generosity, Ha’azinu returns us to the Ground of Being, to the solidity on which we stand. Seven times in this poem, God is called “Tzur,” The Rock.
    Through the wilderness of our lives we are called to return again and again to the Presence of God who supports us, who is the ground beneath our feet. Because of the solidity of this Rock, we can stand upright. Each time we stumble, each time we fall into distraction, forgetfulness, confusion or complacency, we can again find our bearings and push against the Rock of God beneath us in order to stand upright. In fact, in Ha’azinu, “Upright,” Jeshurun1 becomes our name.
    And so Ha’azinu blesses us with these images or ways to understand and receive God’s Presence. God is like the rain and dew, giving Life to all. God is like the Rock on which everything rests, allowing us to stand upright and find our footing as we traverse this wilderness. Rain and dew are Heavenly images, while Rock is the essence of Earth. Heaven and Earth are the aspects within us that are called upon to hear this final sublime message. Heaven and Earth receive the blessing of Ha’azinu through their attentive witness.

    AND WE ARE GIVEN YET ANOTHER METAPHOR that includes and transcends both Heaven and Earth:

    Back in the Book of Exodus, God was a mother eagle who carried us
    on her wings to our Freedom. And now that same Mother Eagle God
    has returned to stir the nest – that tangle of branches where we doubt,
    procrastinate and hesitate. She urges us to Flight, exhorting us to receive
    the legacy of our Freedom. The Mother Eagle God reminds us, her
    fledglings, that we are not limited to either Heaven or to Earth. We are
    blessed with both the fluid and the firm. And we are blessed with the
    ability to soar between them.

    As we return again and again to the Rock on which we stand – feeling God beneath our feet supporting us on this journey – we might be deceived into thinking that this Rock is unresponsive, without love or tenderness. We might even be tempted to strike the Rock in frustration or anger. Laboring under this misapprehension, we would be missing the sweetest mystery… for, when we come to the highest places, the places of remembrance and true presence, the delicious bounty of Life will be ours. We will then suckle and be nourished by honey from that very Rock, and we will be anointed with the choicest oil from what had once seemed the hardest crevice.

    HA’AZINU BLESSES US with this remembrance: The hardest and most difficult places on our journey may ultimately become the greatest sources of our Redemption and Nourishment. Only when we rise to the spiritual challenges before us, do we receive Life’s bounty. Our awareness can transform those difficult places on our journey into fountains of blessing.

    THE SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE

    HA’AZINU DESCRIBES those difficult places. These are the spiritual challenges we are given – times of great suffering – which are the result of our forgetfulness.
    We forget to turn back to our Source, the only true font of sustenance. We forget to trust the Rock beneath us… and instead search for God somewhere faraway and remote. We grasp after something external and remain unsatisfied.
    Ha’azinu describes this state of alienation from our Source in vividly stark and cruel language:

    “Outside: A sword will bereave,
    and Inside: Terror”2

    We have somehow become drunk on the wrong wine – a poisonous brew made from the grapes of Sodom and Gomorrah (a place famous for its hatred and meanness.) Wisdom means understanding the future that you are creating for yourself with your present actions … and this wine, which is called serpent’s venom … dissolves that understanding.
    “Outside: A sword will bereave.” Every time we close our hearts and lift our hand against another, we ourselves will be bereaved. We will lose access to the power of goodness at our core. Every time we raise our voice in blame or hatred, we wound ourselves with our own sword.
    “… and Inside: Terror.” Every act or word of violence or cruelty conceals the growing terror within.
    It’s easy for me to acknowledge this state of alienation in the world, where my country wages war after war, concealing its terror of “the stranger,” and where genocide and the brutal domination and destruction of cultures and of the earth itself are the norm. I can see that war against the “other” as an easy option, serves to conceal the terror that hides within our own borders, within our own hearts.

    IT IS EASY FOR ME to acknowledge our culture’s addiction to violence and the meanness of politics that feeds our own cynicism. At times like this, God’s face is hidden behind the mask of a cruel warrior… which is merely the reflection of our own hidden terror. It’s easy for me to become comfortably self-righteous and join with like-minded rebels to build up our case against the powers-that-be.

    WHAT IS HARDER FOR ME (and here lies the true spiritual challenge of Ha’azinu) is acknowledging my own complicity. At times, I also drink from the poison wine. I wield the sword which is the cause of my own bereavement. I hide a terror within. I am a microcosm of the world that I so adeptly criticize.
    Ha’azinu challenges us by warning, “It is not a worthless thing… it is your life.” It is not possible to avoid the pain of life… but when we react to the inevitable pains and difficulties of life by becoming bitter, negative and judgmental or by blaming others… then we turn our pain into suffering. Suffering is the magnification and reification of pain. When we become that pain and spiral down into an identification with negativity… then our lives become a “worthless thing.” We lose sight of the cosmos of which we are a part. We lose touch with our own power and essential goodness. Ha’azinu lifts up each moment and says, “It is your life! What will you do with it just now?”

    1 Jeshurun is a poetic name for Israel/Jacob that appears just 4 times in the Bible: Deut: 32:15, 33:5, 26, Isaiah 44:2. While the name Jacob hints at deceitfulness, Jeshurun contradicts that tendency. It is probably derived from the root Y-Sh-R which means “direct/straight/upright,” or “righteous.” Perhaps we become Israel when our inner drama leads deceitful Jacob to become fully integrated with righteous Jeshurun.

    2 Deuteronomy 32:25

    3 The Hebrew word neshimah means breath and is from the same root as neshamah-soul.

    Please click on the link to the website for Guidlines for Practice

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  4. Wendy

    From Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman

    Ha’azinu
    According to many commentaries the song of Ha’azinu alludes to the history of the world from its very inception, the history of mankind, and specifically the Jewish people until its final redemption in the land of Israel.

    The first three verses in the portion allude directly to the creation of the world and through close investigation one can see a clear parallel between these three verses and the first three days of creation.

    The first sentence of the Torah describing the creation of heaven and earth contains seven words: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” In the first sentence of Ha’azinu, which also contains seven words, the heavens and the earth are brought as “witnesses” to the prophecy of Moshe: “Give ear heavens and I will speak, and may the earth hear the words of my mouth” (Deuteronomy 32:1). Rashi explains that the heavens and earth are called as witnesses as they will exist in every generation, and in addition they will serve as the agents of the blessing or curse which will be accorded the Jewish people according to their actions.

    The second day of creation describes the creation of the firmament in the midst of the waters and the ultimate separation between the upper and lower waters. The second sentence of Ha’azinu has Moshe comparing his words to different types of precipitation which come from above and dew which comes from below. Rashi explains that just as rain awakens life on the earth, the words of Torah give life to man.

    In the story of creation the earth’s vegetation was created on the third day. Yet, later it describes how despite their creation on the third day nothing grew “for God had not caused it to rain on the earth and there was no man to work the soil” (Genesis 2:5). When Adam realized, as Rashi explains, that nothing would grow without the rains he began to pray for rain, which then came in response to his prayer and caused everything to grow.

    Even before the creation of man though the Torah states: “and a mist rose up from the earth and watered the face of the land.” According to Rashi, the mist spoken about created clouds which moistened the earth creating the right atmosphere in which man could be created from the dust of the earth and the mist, much like one adds water to flour in order to knead it into dough.

    The third sentence of Ha’azinu proclaims: “when I call upon the name of the Lord; give greatness to our God.” This calling on God’s name is what brings the life giving rains, which are symbolic of all spiritual and physical bounty.

    The second paragraph of the Shema describes how our reward for doing God’s will are the rains that will come in their season. The power of the rains to release the earth’s ability to sustain vegetation can be compared to prayer’s ability to awaken our dormant potential and bring it to actualization.

    A beautiful allusion to the connection between the power of creation and the power of prayer can be seen in the similarities between the word ed( spelled ayin-dalet), which means witness, as in the heaven and earth being called as witnesses, and ed(spelled alef-dalet), which is the mist that arose and was needed for the creation of man. Although they are written with different first letters, both words are pronounced the same way in Hebrew.

    Kabbalah and Chassidut discuss at length two types of arousal or initial points of spiritual awakening: arousal from above and arousal from below. Rain represents arousal from above, and dew or mist the arousal from below. These two concepts are further represented by heaven and earth, which are called upon as witnesses to Moshe’s prophecy. Just as in creation, where the rising of the mist and Adam’s prayer preceded God’s answer of rain, so too man should strive to draw close to God through his or her own arousal from below. We pray for God’s “response” from above to below. Prayer is one of the most potent ways to facilitate this two way flow between God and man. Many times though, when we are unable to awaken ourselves, we receive God’s grace through the awakening coming from above first. At the deepest level even the original awakening from below comes secretly from above.

    For a Jew, the ultimate task is to be a constant witness to the world that there is one God. This is our way of giving “greatness to our God”. The most important statement of this belief, contained in the morning and evening prayers is “Hear O Israel the Lord our God the Lord is One”. When written in the Torah, the letters ayin of Shema and the dalet of Echad are enlarged, spelling the word Ed, witness.

    Another beautiful connection between the power of creation and the power of prayer appears in the following sentence: “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth in their creation, on that day God made the earth and the heavens.”(Breishit 2.4) There are two orders here; first heaven and earth and then earth and heaven. The Talmud teaches that the word behebaram, “in their creation,” contains the same letters as Abraham. Until Avraham came to be a witness to the reality of One God, the sustenance of the world came almost exclusively from above. Abraham introduced the idea of man becoming partners in the creation through his arousal from below to be close to God.

    The arousal we are referring to is summed up best by the words: “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” This phrase is found in the first paragraph of the Shema. The word meodecha, “with all your might,” could also be read as m’-ed-cha, “from your ed,” “your mist;” your awakening from below. This teaches us that concentration and devotion in prayer has the ability to facilitate a true arousal from below, where we can harness all our innate and hidden soul powers to emulate the Divine powers of creation.

    This aroused aspect of prayer is perhaps most revealed in Neila, the last of the five prayers of Yom Kippur. These five prayers can be related to the word ed, “mist,” whose numerical value is also five. No matter how tired we are by the day long fast of Yom Kippur, with the approaching of Neila, (which means the closing of the gates,) each person musters all of their energy to ensure that the gates of heaven and his or her soul is actually open the widest. This is truly a quintessential moment of “with all your might.” Like true witnesses we forcefully arouse ourselves from below to proclaim at the end of Neila:

    “Hear O Israel the Lord our God the Lord is One”.

    “Blessed is His Kingdom forever and ever”

    “God He is the Lord”

    The final shofar blast uplifts all the prayers to the height of heaven, even those which are beyond words. May we all merit to experience God “raining down” His grace upon us.

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  5. Wendy

    From Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
    Written for Radical Torah

    Walking the Walk 2006

    And when Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel, he said to them: Take to heart all the words with which I have warned you this day. Enjoin them upon your children, that they may observe faithfully all the terms of this Teaching. For this is not a trifling thing for you: it is your very life[.]

    As our journey through the Torah scroll approaches this year’s ending and concomitant new beginning, I’ve been thinking about what it means to take Torah seriously, as Moses here instructs us to do. What does it mean to “observe faithfully all the terms of this Teaching,” to understand Torah as “our very life”?

    I can tell you what it doesn’t mean: it doesn’t mean taking Torah literally, because reading Torah literally and attempting to believe its many contradictory statements as factual reality would no doubt make one’s head explode. It doesn’t mean reading only the easy bits of Torah, or the fun bits, or the bits that make immediate and intuitive sense.

    It doesn’t mean skipping over the boring or confusing parts, or the parts that contradict other parts. It doesn’t mean accepting anybody else’s interpretation, necessarily, but it also doesn’t mean always feeling compelled to come up with your own, either. It doesn’t mean watching other people engage with the text while remaining at a safe distance, comfortably aloof.

    It doesn’t mean limiting your understanding of “Torah” to just the Chumash, or just the Tanakh, or just the Written + Oral Torahs, or just the feminist commentaries on the Torah, or just the non-feminist ones. It doesn’t mean squeezing Torah into any kind of glass slippers that would require you to trim a toe here and a slice of heel there in order to fake a comfortable fit.

    It doesn’t mean assuming that the interpretation you’re longing for is necessarily right, or assuming it’s necessarily wrong. It doesn’t mean using your version of the text to whack other people whose understandings don’t match the one you prefer. It doesn’t mean anything liberal or conservative, progressive or restorationist or anything else besides.

    It doesn’t mean throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but it doesn’t mean keeping the baby in diapers forever either. It doesn’t mean idolizing the written text in such a way that we forget the unending revelation streaming beyond and through and behind it.

    It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing, which means the only way to make Torah our lives is to dance with it, sometimes wildly and sometimes gently, sometimes furiously and sometimes tenderly, sometimes cradling it in our arms like a lover and sometimes passing it around the room like a bottle of wine.

    It means opening ourselves to the wisdom of our ancestors, and their occasional idiocy too. It means embracing the willingness to be wrong, and the willingness to be right, and the willingness to keep putting one foot in front of the other, step by step.

    Because that’s what it’s all about: doing the hokey-pokey and turning the scroll around, turning it and turning it because everything is in it, knowing all the while that what matters is not how we walk the Jewish walk but that we care enough to walk it at all.
    —————————————————————————————————

    ASYMPTOTE (HA-AZINU) 2008

    Climb the mountain, God said. Look out
    over the hills and the desert:

    here dark spikes of cypress and cedar,
    there scrub and sand pinked by sunset.

    This is as close as you get.
    Your years of service are over.

    Honestly, the striving was the good part:
    yearning like a thirsty man for water

    meeting setback sometimes with fury
    and sometimes with grace

    dreaming of vineyards and groves
    each house with an oven of its own…

    Does it hurt, being so near and so far?
    Trust Me: I know what I’m doing.

    If you could live to see what’s coming
    it would break your heart.

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  6. Wendy

    From Rav DovBer Pinson

    Parshas Ha’azinu
    New Beginnings

    This week’s portion is primarily a song, composed by Moshe and delivered to the people of Israel. This ‘Shira’ or song, is one of prophecy, foretelling the story of the Israelites future .

    The word Shira/song alludes to a circle. (Baba Metziya. 25a) There are two different realities in which we can exist. One is the circle reality and the diametrically opposed reality is the reality of the line.

    The primary difference between a line and a circle is that while a line has a beginning and an end, the circle is continuous,having no place of beginning and no definite ending.

    The reality of Kav/line is the absolute law of cause and effect, action vs. reaction. In this reality, once something is set in motion by your actions, there will be an absolute consequence of this action, for better or worse. In this linear reality there is no possibility for real change, to go back before the action and start anew. In contrast, circle reality, affords us the possibility to change our course in life, to do a complete about face as it were, whenever we so desire.

    At the end of Moshe’s life, a new leader is being chosen, the cycle of renewal begins, and at this time Moshe reveals to the people the “song of the Torah,” the possibility of radical renewal.

    As we enter Rosh Hashanah, we celebrate not only the beginning of the year, but the Rosh/head of the year. Rosh Hashana is the ‘brain’ of the year, the nucleus from which all of the year emerges. As we come into a new year, a new Light that was never revealed in creation will flow down, giving us the ability to tap into the energy of newness.

    Rosh Hashanah embodies the renewal of the entire year. Everything physical and spiritual we will attain in the coming year is drawn down into us in it’s potential state on Rosh Hashanah.

    In order to tap into this energy of renewal, we need to open ourselves with humility to receive the blessings for the coming year. We do this by putting aside our ego, and turning to Hashem saying; give us blessings in a circle reality, a reality where cause and effect need not be intertwined, and we can receive purely on the basis of right now, and Your inifinite kindness.

    The Energy of the Week:New BeginningsThis week’s energy is the circle reality. A reality that goes beyond linear logic and wherein radical newness is a real possibility. The things that you feel are impossible based on the reality of the line, are completely logical and possible in this circle reality.

    To tap into this energy we need to open ourselves up to the circle reality by being fully in the present moment, and setting our ego aside. In this humble place we are an open vessel, ready to receive blessing that is not reliant on past deeds and actions.

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  7. Wendy

    From Melissa Carpenter

    Ha-azinu: Hovering

    Like an eagle He rouses His nest;

    Over His fledglings He hovers.

    He spreads out His wings, He takes one;

    He carries it up on His wings. (Deuteronomy/Devarim 32:11)

    … and darkness over the face of the deep, and the wind of God hovering over the face of the waters. (Genesis/Bereishit 1:2)

    rachaf = hover

    This week’s Torah portion, Ha-Azinu (Listen) is a poem Moses gives the Israelites to write down and make their children memorize. Every year I feel let down when I read this poem. It offers some lovely metaphors, but no new insights or instructions; it just doesn’t seem important enough after the build-up.

    Nevertheless, this time I noticed a rare word, rachaf, that occurs both in this poem (just before Moses’ death and the end of the Torah proper) and in the beginning of Genesis/Bereishit. In fact, these are the only two occurrences of the verb rachaf in the pi-el stem, where it means “hover” instead of “tremble”.

    In this week’s Torah portion, Moses compares God to a nesher—an eagle or vulture—teaching its fledglings to fly. (I generally don’t like to limit God to the third person masculine pronoun, but for the translation above “He” was the best compromise.) The parent eagle urges the young birds to fly out of their aerie, which perches high in a tree or crag. The adult eagle hovers close by, and if an eaglet falls, the eagle swoops under it and catches the fledgling on its own wings.

    (In actuality, most eaglets learn to fly by themselves, but this type of parental rescue has been observed in our own time with golden eagles—but not with vultures.)

    The Torah uses the image as a metaphor for the relationship between humans and God. We humans are stirred, moved by ineffable longings, and we attempt to move beyond the practical, material realm. God hovers over us protectively, and when we falter, God lifts us up.

    In a few weeks, on Simchat Torah, Jewish congregations worldwide will read the last lines of Deuteronomy in their Torah scroll, then roll the scroll back to the beginning and read about the creation of the universe. In Genesis/Bereishit 1:2, before God even speaks light into being, the wind or spirit of God is “hovering” over the face of the waters. It seems as though God is watching over the dark, watery deeps, waiting to see if something will rise up, evolve on its own initiative. When nothing arises, God has to take the next step.

    Thus humans are distinguished from the general mass of the universe; unlike stones or stars or even most animals, we have initiative, we attempt to make changes, and we reach toward our notions of the divine.

    When we get morally confused or mentally tired, we falter and begin to fall, turning the religions we hoped were wings into weapons, and attacking each other instead of flying. Then who, or what, will catch us and carry us back up to the light?

    Reply
  8. Wendy

    From Melissa Carpenter

    Ha-Azinu: Raining Insights

    September 26, 2011

    The book of Deuteronomy (Devarim) consists of a long series of speeches Moses makes to the Israelites just before he dies and his people cross the Jordan River into Canaan. Besides retelling the history of the last 40 years, Moses reviews the laws given earlier in the Torah. Then, just before he gives the people his final blessing and climbs up a hill to die, Moses teaches the people a song.

    The song is this week’s Torah portion, Ha-Azinu (Use your ears). The Hebrew calendar is arranged so that Ha-Azinu falls during the Days of Awe, in between Rosh Hashannah (“Head of the Year”) and Yom Kippur (“Day of Atonement”) ten days later. This puts Moses’ poem in the spotlight.

    Yet whenever I read Ha-Azinu, it strikes me as a poor summary of the principles Moses laid out earlier in the Torah. It also strikes me as yet another long-winded warning that the Israelites will screw up, rather than an inspiration to do the right thing and walk with God.

    But this year I noticed that Ha-Azinu is called a shirah, a song. As I prepare for the Days of Awe, going over old melodies Jews use only at this time of year for traditional liturgy, I remember how every year at services the melodies themselves move my heart and make my whole body feel different.

    So perhaps if I heard Ha-Azinu as a song, with its own ancient melody, it would have a different effect on me. Perhaps the words and melody together moved the Israelites in a way I cannot imagine.

    However, even without the melody, and even with my jaundiced view of the overall message, I am stirred by some of the poetic images embedded in this long poem–including Moses’ introduction:

    Use your ears, Heavens, and I will speak;

    Listen, Earth, to what my mouth says.

    May my insights drop like rain;

    May my utterances drip like dew;

    Like showers upon green sprouts,

    And like downpours upon growing plants. (Deuteronomy/Devarim 32:1-2)

    Commentators agree that in the first two lines, Moses is calling upon Heaven and Earth to witness his address to the Israelites. The next four lines (verse 32:2) express how Moses hopes his words will be received by his audience—the children of Israel assembled on the bank of the Jordan, and everyone else who will hear or read his song in the future.

    Most poetry in the Torah is written in paired statements. The second line may appear to be a repetition of the first line, using synonyms, but it actually adds another shade of meaning.

    What is implied by the pairing of rain and dew? The 16th-century rabbi Obadiah Sforno wrote that wisdom from the Torah rains down on intellectuals, but even the common people benefit from the dew of some small knowledge of God. (He sounds like a snob, but in fact the more one studies, the more one can draw insights out of a text.) According to the Zohar, a 13th-century kabbalistic work, the rain is the written Torah, given from heaven, and the dew is the oral Torah, our human interpretations here on earth. The 19th-century rabbi S.R. Hirsch wrote that rain breaks up clods of dirt and prepares the soil of our minds to receive insights, while dew encourages and revives wilting spirits.

    The next pair of lines both refer to effect of rain on annuals, the plants that spring up during the rainy season in Israel, including grasses and vegetables. Rain showers make seeds sprout and send up green shoots; downpours water the new green plants so they can continue growing.

    The implication is that people are more like vegetables than trees. We find it hard to grow in arid conditions. A little dampness deep below the surface of the soil might suffice for a desert tree, but we need raindrops. rain showers, downpours. We need to be flooded with teachings, explanations, rules, stories, poems, insights, sayings. Then our deeper selves, our souls, can send up sprouts. And as the words of wisdom continue to rain down, we can grow branches and leaves, green with new life, new awareness.

    May we all be thirsty for more teachings and more insights.

    Reply
  9. Wendy

    From Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man

    Sweet Song of Exile
    Posted on December 15, 2011
    פִּתְחוּ לִי שַׁעֲרֵי צֶדֶק אָבֹא בָם

    Open for me, gates of triumph, open that I may enter and praise H’. This is the gate to H’, through which the company of the Righteous pass.

    “Open for me the gates.” The prayer is earnest, the intention pure, but the answer may still be ‘no’; you may not come in, you will have to remain outside. Was not the Great Teacher, Moses himself, denied permission to go into the Land (though he he did gaze at it from the mountaintop)? And did not those others, the lost generations, traverse many stations of trial and purification, only to perish in the wilderness, yearning for but never approaching the Holy of Holies?

    And yet, we are told, the farthest are the nearest, the outermost are the innermost, and the most distant of limbs have a place within the heart of hearts.

    So the traveler, excluded from those circles of priests and tiers of levites, sits encamped beyond the walls, and there chants a different song of praise: Blessed is the One that holds the All.

    Wendy’s comment: I love this teaching.

    Reply
  10. Wendy

    From Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

    UNIVERSAL TORAH: HA-AZINU

    By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

    Torah Reading: HA-AZINU, Deuteronomy 32: 1-52

    THE SONG OF G-D’S JUSTICE

    Some songs are happy, some are sad. Some are for entertainment. Some come to tell a story or teach a lesson. Some express the inner heart and soul. Unique among all songs is the song of Moses in our parshah. HA-AZINU is the song of G-d’s perfect Justice — the ultimate reproof to man.

    The Hebrew word for song, SHIRAH, is related to the word SHER, which means a chain or necklace. A song is a chain, thread or structure that connects various particulars together in order to make a meaningful order. As the very climax of the Torah, Moses’ song of HA’AZINU gives order and meaning to the history of the people of Israel with its great highs and terrible lows. Everything comes to show the faultless, inexorable justice of G-d. “The Rock — His work is perfect, for all His ways are Justice, the G-d of faithfulness in Whom there is no wrong, He is righteous and straight!” (Deut. 32:4).

    This may be easy to say, but it is very hard to actually know and believe in our heart of hearts. Nevertheless Moses challenges us to join him in this song of testimony, so that we too will know and declare G-d’s justice. The song is “interactive”: Moses chants, calling upon us to respond. “For I will call upon the Name of HaShem — ascribe greatness to our G-d” (ibid. v. 3). This verse is the Torah source for the prayer leader’s call to prayer and the congregational response, both in the synagogue — BAR’CHU — and at the table introducing the blessings after eating bread — NEVORECH (Brachos 45a). HA-AZINU challenges us to respond: to wake up, see and acknowledge G-d’s truth and justice, and to respond in the proper way, by repenting. HA-AZINU is such an important expression of the essence of Israel’s faith and destiny that some communities had the custom of reciting it daily in the morning prayers together with SHIRAS HAYAM (“Song of the Sea”) (Rambam, Laws of Prayer 7:13). In the Temple, successive portions of HA-AZINU were read every Shabbos in a six-week cycle as part of the service accompanying the Shabbos additional offering (Rambam, Temidim Umusafim 6:9).

    “Listen, O heavens, and I will speak. Hear, O earth, the words of my mouth” (Deut. 32:1). Moses calls upon the heavens and earth, G-d’s impassive, unwaveringly obedient servants, as his witnesses. For mortal man is too devious and full of ploys to be a valid witness — he has a vested interest: he wants to justify himself. “Why did this happen to me? It isn’t fair.” Moses confronts us — the latter generation that he is addressing — with independent testimony that cannot be denied: the actual history of the people of Israel from the very beginning to the very end, for it is all encapsulated in HA-AZINU. “Remember the days of the universe, understand the years of generation after generation; ask your father and he will inform you, your grandfather and they will tell you…” (v. 7). What has happened in the past and what is happening now to Israel is of significance to the entire world. For Israel is at the very center. “When the Supreme gave the peoples their inheritance, when He spread out the children of man, He established the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the Children of Israel…” (v. 8)….

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  11. Wendy

    From Rav Kook

    Ha’azinu: The Source of Rabbinic Authority
    The Sages instituted numerous rabbinic decrees in order to prevent violations of Torah law. For example, the Sages extended the Torah’s prohibition of eating milk and meat together to include fowl, since it confused people who failed to distinguish between fowl and ‘real’ meat.

    There are, however, a few cases in which the Sages went even further, and authored new positive mitzvot. The mitzvot to light Chanukah lights, to read Megillat Esther on Purim, to wash hands before eating bread – these are rabbinic enactments with no direct basis in Torah law. They are not extensions of Torah legislation or protective measures, but brand-new mitzvot. By what right could the Sages create them?

    Even more audacious, the rabbis decreed that one recites a blessing when performing these rabbinic innovations: “Blessed are You, the Eternal our God… Who has commanded us to…” When did God command us to light Chanukah candles, or read the Megillah on Purim?

    The Talmud in Shabbat 23a responds to this question. There are in fact two sources in the Torah for the rabbinic authority to establish new mitzvot:

    “Do not stray to the right or left from the word that [the high court] will declare to you.” (Deut. 17:10)
    “Ask your father and he will tell you; question your elders, and they will respond.” (Deut. 32:7)
    Why two sources?
    Rav Kook explained that God-given commandments will naturally lead towards the goal of absolute good. This is understandable, as God knows the future and is aware of all implications of any decree. Man-made laws, on the other hand, even those designed by the most prescient legal scholars, will never be able to achieve the same results as a Divinely-decreed mitzvah.

    Of course, the Talmudic Sages were blessed with ruach hakodesh, Divine inspiration, in addition to the logic and reasoning that are an integral aspect of the Oral Law. They used these gifts in order to attain results similar to God-given mitzvot, to further the cause of the Jewish people’s perfection in both spiritual and material realms.

    The Sages examined two aspects when formulating a new law:

    The people’s current religious and physical needs;
    The desire to maintain continuity with the Jewish people’s lofty spiritual heritage.
    It is insufficient to take into account only immediate needs. If the people becomes estranged from its spiritual foundation, it has in fact become a different nation. Its unity and continuity are no longer assured.
    Regarding the need to address the current needs of society, the Torah commands, “Do not stray to the right or left from the word that [the high court] will declare to you.” This refers to decrees of the high court, which institutes legislation determined by the present state of the people.

    But other rabbinic enactments are new mitzvot, designed to maintain our ties with our spiritual heritage — such as lights on Chanukah, reading the Megillah on Purim, or washing hands before a meal, like the kohanim before they ate Terumah. Regarding the authority to enact these new mitzvot, the Torah states, “Ask your father… question your elders.” Israel’s past was elevated and holy, and is the source of our success. “For His own nation remained God’s portion; Jacob is the lot of His heritage” (Deut. 32:9).

    (Adapted from Ein Eyah on Shabbat 23a, vol. III, p. 73)

    Copyright © 2006 by Chanan Morrison

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  12. Wendy

    From Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan

    Haazinu
    L’dor vador: From Generation to Generation (2012/5773)

    The word l’dor, has a gematriya of 234. The word appears in God’s first call to Avraham and to Moshe. Each is called by God to believe that others will be blessed through them.

    The word vador has a gematriya of 210. It appears in the song of Haazinu, in a passage that speaks directly to the younger generation:

    Remember the days of old. Understand the times of the previous generations. Ask your parents and they will tell you. Ask your elders and they will speak to you.

    Looking only at words that appear in the Torah the number 210 is also the gematriya of emek, valley, and hahar, the mountain. Mountain and valley are two features of a landscape that depend on one another to exist.

    210 is also the gematriya of amok, deep, and rochav, breadth. Depth and breadth are two of the dimensions that give every existing object its shape, neither of which can exist in isolation from the other.

    And 210 is also the gematriya of chubar, joined together, which emphasizing once again that importance of both generations playing the roles suggested by Torah. The older: sharing blessings, teaching, guiding, answering questions, being flexible and open to change. The younger: asking questions, actively understanding answers, remembering and honoring.

    The collaborative relationship between generations is part of a divine charge to humanity. How will we choose to implement it in our personal and communal lives?

    Reply
  13. Wendy

    Ha’azinu: Torah like Rain

    Copyright 2012 Neal Joseph Loevinger

    Torah Portion: Ha’azinu

    May my discourse come down as the rain, my speech distill as the dew,
    Like showers on young growth, Like droplets on the grass. (D’varim/ Deuteronomy 32:2)

    Good afternoon!

    I hope all who observed Yom Kippur this week had a good and introspective experience.
    The Days of Awe are observed together with many people, maybe hundreds or thousands, but at their best it’s a very individual experience as well, each one of us looking within to take stock and hold ourselves accountable to our higher ideals.

    This relates to a verse in this week’s Torah portion, Ha’azinu, which is Moshe’s penultimate discourse or sermon to the Israelites before he dies and they go on without him. The verse above is understood by the ancient rabbis to refer to Torah in general. The word translated as “discourse” can also mean “lesson” or “counsel,” so it’s easy to see why the rabbis would link the idea of Moshe’s “discourse” to the Torah that he has taught while serving as leader of the people.

    So why, they ask, is Torah compared to rain and dew? One text, quoted in the book Torah Temimah, says that Torah is like rain and dew because just as rain comes from one source, but waters each tree and plant which then produces fruit according to its individual natures, so too Torah is one, but each of us respond to it in a unique way. Torah “waters” each of us so that we may grow according to our individual capacity and talents. It is not meant to create robots or clones, but thinking, feeling, passionate people, each of whom will grow and act in Torah in in new and surprising ways.

    So too this season of the Days of Awe; we read the same prayers out of the same book, but have profoundly different experiences depending on challenges and setbacks and sins and triumphs of each individual life. Judaism can bring you to the edge of spiritual grown, but we all have to decide how to take the next step; nobody else can find your passion and bring forth your spirit. The rain waters grass and trees alike, but they grow differently; our teachings and traditions need to be applied to the specific circumstances of each life, and only then will they bear fruit.

    Shabbat Shalom,

    RNJL

    Reply
  14. Wendy

    From Rabbi David Kasher

    A HOWLING WASTELAND – Parshat Ha’azinu
    This has got to be some of the most beautiful poetry in the Torah:

    He found him in a desert land,

    In chaos, a howling wasteland.

    He circled around him, he built him up,

    Guarded him like the pupil of his eye.

    Like an eagle who rouses her nest,

    Glides down to her young,

    Spreads her wings and takes them,

    And carries them away on her limbs. (Deuteronomy 32:10-11)

    But what is going on exactly? Who found who in that desert land? And where did he take them, eagle-like, from there?

    The obvious answer is that this is about how God found the Children of Israel, and brought them into the promised land. The relationship between God and Israel, after all, is the major subject of the whole poem that constitutes our parsha, Ha’azinu. And indeed, the previous verse seems to force that interpretation:

    For the Lord’s portion is His people,

    Jacob is the line of his inheritance. (v.9)

    On top of that, other great reference to eagles is back in Exodus, “I bore you on eagle’s wings, and brought you to Me.” (19:4) So the Lord found His people in a desert land, and carried them away into the land of Canaan. Most of the commentators assume that this is the meaning our opening image.

    The only problem with this reading is that God did not “find” his people in the desert. He took them there! As Abravanel puts it:

    How could he say that He found them in the wilderness when He really had found them in Egypt and there called His name upon them?

    Most attempts to solve this problem focus on a reinterpretation of the word “found.” Various commentaries suggest that here the verb, “he found” really means, “he provided for,” or “he saw they were faithful,” or even, “he brought them into being” as a nation.

    But the Zohar, the great mystical text of Judaism, offers another lens through which to read these verses. A few lines earlier, our parsha begins its account with the phrase:

    Remember the days of old… (v. 7)

    The Zohar, noting that the word for “old” here is ‘olam’ (עולם), which literally means “world,” gives us this interpretation:

    Rabbi Abba said: What are the days of the world? They are the six days with which the Holy One, blessed be He, created the world.

    The verse, according to Rabbi Abba, is asking us to remember not just our history, but creation itself. If we carry this reading into our howling wasteland, then it is not the people of Israel that God “finds,” but the first people – humanity itself. That is the way the great hassidic commentator, the Sfat Emet, picking up on the Zohar, understands these images:

    The verses, “Remember the days of old,” and “The Lord’s portion is His people,” refers to what was written (in Genesis 1), “Let us make the Human.”

    If so, then it was Adam that God found out there in the wilderness. But of course, this homiletic reading is also a stretch – even more so. Adam was never in the desert at all!

    No, not the desert. But the very next words in our parsha do take us back to the Genesis story in which Adam was formed:

    In chaos, a howling wasteland.

    Chaos (tohu – תהו). There is only one other place in the Torah where we find this word – way back, at the very beginning:

    In the Beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was chaos and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep. (Gen. 1:1-2)

    And there in the howling chaos of the primordial void, a world would soon come into being. Six days later, God would find humanity, drawing them out into being.

    But why now, here at the end of the Torah, are we being told to remember the story of creation? What does the origin of humanity have to do with the real subject of our parsha, the story of the nation of Israel?

    Of course, that’s just it. Now, at the end of our journey, as we prepare to enter into the land of Israel and forge our particular destiny, we must remember that our story is much bigger than us. We have come so far from where we started; we have achieved a level of greatness. But we cannot forget that before we were a “kingdom of priests, and a holy nation,” we were just human beings, naked in the garden. And so we share a common inheritance with all of humanity.

    And what is that inheritance? Where does our story begin?

    In chaos.

    We did not simply emerge from the desert. Nor did we first find ourselves in Egypt. We cannot start our family history with Our Father Jacob, or even with Abraham. Our story goes back further, back before the Children of Noah, back before Cain slew Abel, back even before there was a garden to stand naked in.

    We were born in chaos. God found us there. Before we were delivered from Egypt, this was the first deliverance. He carried us, on eagle’s wings, out of chaos and void.

    Let us not forget where we come from. Or we shall surely return to chaos.

    Reply
  15. Wendy

    From the Hebrew College

    Seventy Faces of Torah
    By Rabbi Alyson Solomon

    Angels in the Wilderness
    Ha’azinu/Shabbat Shuva, Deuteronomy 32:1-52

    Early in Genesis we find Hagar, with dust in her hair and on her feet. Hagar is Abraham’s handmaid, pregnant with his first and oldest son, running from her master’s home. She runs furiously into the wilderness and stops by an עֵין הַמַּיִם, a spring or more literally, an eye of water. In Genesis 16:7-8 we read:

    And an angel of the Lord found her [Hagar] by a water fountain in the desert, by the fountain on the road to Shur. וַיִּמְצָאָהּ מַלְאַךְ יְהֹוָה עַל עֵין הַמַּיִם בַּמִּדְבָּר עַל הָעַיִן בְּדֶרֶךְ שׁוּר:
    And the angel said, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where are you coming from, and where are you going to?” And she said, “From before Sarai my mistress, I am fleeing.” וַיֹּאמַר הָגָר שִׁפְחַת שָׂרַי אֵי מִזֶּה בָאת וְאָנָה תֵלֵכִי וַתֹּאמֶר מִפְּנֵי שָׂרַי גְּבִרְתִּי אָנֹכִי בֹּרַחַת:
    Suddenly an angel appears and says to Hagar, “From where are you coming and to where are you going?” On this verse, Rashi, our great 11th century commentator, teaches that actually the angel, of course, knew where Hagar was coming from, so the question had two functions. First, to give her an opening to start talking with him and second, on a deeper level, אֵי מִזֶּה [literally: where from this] means: “Where is the place about which you can say, ‘From this place I have come.’”

    Hagar responds, I imagine somewhat breathlessly, “I am fleeing my master’s house.” Each time I read this section of Torah I wonder if this is simply Hagar’s opening statement or a deeper description of where she was coming from on a soul level.

    Either way, she does not give her destination, perhaps because she doesn’t know where she’s headed. Perhaps her heart is broken, angry or numb.

    This time of year, especially on Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat of Return, the Shabbat that finds us between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we find ourselves, personally and communally asking ourselves, as if stopped by an angel in the wilderness, “Where am I coming from and where am I going?” The image is full of wild momentum, pregnant with the unknown, layered with texture all coming together at an “eye of water,” a moment of hydration, to hear a messenger of the Holy One ask, “Wait, pause a moment. Where are you?” This moment to check our soul-GPS is one that reminds me of even earlier in Genesis when Creator calls out, speaking to humanity for the very first time, primarily for our benefit, אַיֶּֽכָּה, ayeka, where are you? To me, this question is both eternal and urgent.

    As I kid, I remember being very confused by the high holidays. Growing up in Portland, Oregon, Rosh Hashana was a time of crisp breezes, leaves turning from green to yellow, muddy grass and searching for shiny chestnuts. School likely had just begun or was about to begin, meaning fresh school supplies, new shoes and my birthday. Rosh Hashana was sweetened with family and apples, honey and new beginnings.

    Then came Yom Kippur. It seemed like the party ended just as the guests arrived. Everyone got very serious and solemn, we knocked on our chests to say we were sorry and reflect on the year that had pasted. Our rabbi gave an earth-trembling sermon about justice and our responsibility to make a difference. We sang about who would die and who would live and the shofar blasted and blasted until it rang in our ears, even as we occasionally glazed over, counting the light bulbs in the majestic cathedral dome.

    Why, I wondered, and still sometimes wonder, did the holidays come in this order? Shouldn’t we look back and reflect, apologize and recognize our fragility first and then experience new possibilities and new beginnings? At least this way we could take out the trash and then enjoy the party—instead of going through a giant mud puddle upon leaving the car wash, or getting into an argument with someone outside of yoga class.

    But the curators of our Jewish calendar were very thoughtful and very real. It was understood then and now that, actually, we need to experience newness and possibility, birth and creativity, redemption and frankly hope, so that we can do the amends, make the repairs, forgive and reaffirm our vision for the New Year.

    In the way that Torah portions end on a nechemtas, an uplift, the New Year, Rosh Hashana, begins on one. We reconnect with life, with possibility, with renewal, and in this way, we jumpstart our prospects for return. We fortify our desire and resilience to do the hard, deep work of Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat of Return. On this Shabbat alone we are given an extra vitamin, a brand new toothbrush, support to gird our loins. We renew our listening – literally this is the Shabbat Ha’azinu, the Shabbat of Our Listening – in order to hear what Moshe said in his final days. His final telling becomes our new beginning. In hearing his words anew, we solidify our אֵי מִזֶּה, the place about which we can say, ‘From this place I have come.’”

    As she flees through the wildness, Hagar receives an essential question and eternal question, especially at this season and Shabbat of Return, of Listening. Shabbat Shuva is a moment to slow down, dust off our feet and have a glass of water long enough to respond the questions: from where are you coming and to where are you going?

    Minister Victoria Safford in Minnesota preaches it like this:

    “Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope. Not the prudent gates of optimism, which are somewhat narrower. Not the stalwart, boring gates of common sense; nor the strident gates of self-righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges, (people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through) nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna’ be all right.” But a different, sometimes lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition. The place of resistance and defiance, the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but the joy of the struggle. And we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing asking people what they see.”

    Whether it’s a dusty desert angel, the mezuzah on our door, a child pulling on our legs, a speeding ticket or lab results… whatever the speed bump in the road, perhaps it might be just in time to save our lives, to hydrate our spirits. Or, at least, make our trek more meaningful, more full of hope.

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