In God’s Image

In God’s Image

Sep 17, 2021 By Alisa Braun | Commentary | Ha'azinu | Sukkot

What does it mean to be created in God’s image? Or to act in a God-like way? As I reread Parashat Ha’azinu, I was struck by the ways Moses’s song poetically develops God’s care for the Israelites, and I discovered in the vivid and diverse metaphors the beginnings of an answer. From the opening lines, where God’s words are likened to varieties of rain, sustaining and giving life to all, to God as an eagle “who rouses his nestlings” and “bears them along his pinions” (Deut. 32:11), this God builds up, guides, teaches, and protects. God provides for the Israelites’ physical needs with gifts of abundance, nurturing the people with “honey from the crag” as a mother nurses her child (Deut. 32:13). The Israelites’ lack of gratitude inflames God’s anger, but God bestows mercy and forgiveness, despite there being no mention of teshuva (repentance). God gives.

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The Poetics of Loss

The Poetics of Loss

Sep 25, 2020 By Ofra Backenroth | Commentary | Ha'azinu

Growing up, books were always present in our house, arranged by topic in large bookshelves. Arieli Press, an Israeli fine arts publishing company, was founded in 1922 by my grandfather, Yosef Arieli (z”l), a master printer and an author. My father, Ariel Arieli (z”l), and extended family were all involved in the printing business in some capacity. Printing has been regarded as a way to disseminate knowledge in a democratic way and it has been especially precious to the Jewish people who believed that spreading knowledge is Avodat Kodesh—holy work, akin to Moshe teaching Torah on Har Sinai.

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This is My Decree

This is My Decree

Oct 11, 2019 By Raymond Scheindlin | Commentary | Ha'azinu

After surveying the 40 years of wandering in the desert; after reviewing and expanding the laws that God had given the Israelites during that period; and after repeating the terms of the covenant between God and Israel with its promises of a long and prosperous life in their own land if they fulfill God’s commands and its threats of impoverishment and expulsion if they fail to fulfill them, Moses now sums up his message in a poem designed to be memorized and recited regularly so that it might easily and reliably be transmitted from generation to generation.

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Our Very Life

Our Very Life

Sep 21, 2018 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Ha'azinu

At the end of his life, with Joshua by his side, Moses begins his great, thunderous poem, Ha’azinu, summoning the heavens and the earth as witnesses to his powerful, angry message, as God commanded him to do in the preceding parashah, Vayelekh. And yet, in a one-verse reshut, a prayerful, wishful intention, preceding the central portion of his sermonic poem, he says he wants his words to land lightly: “May my discourse come down as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like showers on young growth, like droplets on the grass” (Deut. 32:2). Then suddenly, central angry theme emerges, and he calls the people “unworthy of [God], crooked, perverse” (32:5), “dull and witless” (32:6). 

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Beyond Reach

Beyond Reach

Sep 20, 2017 By Barbara Mann | Commentary | Ha'azinu

Attentive the heart. The ear listening:
Is anyone coming?
Every expectation contains
the sadness of Nevo.

One facing the other—two shores
Of a single river.
The rock of fate:
Ever far apart.

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Parts That Are Left Behind

Parts That Are Left Behind

Oct 14, 2016 By Sarah Diamant | Commentary | Ha'azinu

As we approach the end of the Torah and read Moses’s parting words, we share with you this work which was created as part of JTS’s Artist-in-Residence program, and is on display at JTS as part of the Corridors exhibition.

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Making Every Word Count

Making Every Word Count

Oct 14, 2016 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Ha'azinu

Ha’azinu is remarkable in two respects: what it says, and how it chooses to say it. My focus here will be the latter, but let’s note with regard to the former that in this, his final address to the Children of Israel before a set of farewell blessings, Moses reviews all of his people’s past, present, and future. He begins by calling on the God who had called Israel into being and called him to God’s service. He reminds Israel that God has chosen them and still cares for their well-being. He prophesies that despite all that God and Moses have said and done, Israel will abandon God, as they had in the past. God will punish them, as in the past, but never to the point of utter destruction. In the end, God and Israel will reconcile.

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Dialogue with the Past

Dialogue with the Past

Oct 4, 2003 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Ha'azinu | Shabbat Shuvah

Among all the societies where Jews have lived, America has been least conducive to maintaining a sense of the past. A building from thirty years ago can be a historic landmark; kitchenware from forty years ago qualifies as antique. Objects from the past are allowed to have a fashionable revival but ideas, stories, and concepts from the past are considered outmoded.

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A World Without Teshuvah

A World Without Teshuvah

Sep 18, 2004 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Ha'azinu | Rosh Hashanah | Yom Kippur

The Torah is largely a series of legal texts set in a narrative context. It is not replete with outbursts of poetry. Our poetic sensibility seeks satisfaction elsewhere in the Tanakh – in the passion of the prophets, or the poignancy of the psalmist, or the protest of Job, or in the sensuousness of the Song of Songs. The Torah touches only some of our senses. And yet, it closes in a great poetic flourish. As Moses nears his end, he switches from didactic prose to incandescent poetry.

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On This Very Day

On This Very Day

Sep 26, 2014 By Joel Alter | Commentary | Ha'azinu | Shabbat Shuvah | Yom Kippur

It’s difficult to overstate the pathos of Moshe’s last days. This man (and he is most assuredly a man, not a god, not a saint), who never wanted to be a leader—and after his first, impulsive attempt at leading was met with contempt from those he tried to save and condemnation from Pharaoh, his adoptive father (Exod. 2:11–15)—carried the burdens of prophetic leadership with fierce loyalty to both of his masters, God and the people.

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