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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
Teshuvah: Seeking the Hidden Face of God

Teshuvah: Seeking the Hidden Face of God

Sep 26, 2014 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Ha'azinu | Shabbat Shuvah

This coming Shabbat, the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, is known as Shabbat Shuvah, the “Sabbath of Return.”

Read More
The Heavens, the Poet, and the People

The Heavens, the Poet, and the People

Sep 25, 2015 By David G. Roskies | Commentary | Ha'azinu

Between May and December 1943, the poet Yitshak Katzenelson was incarcerated with his last surviving son, Zvi, in Vittel, a German transit camp in France. There Yitshak kept a diary-cum-journal in Hebrew and completed The Song of the Slaughtered Jewish People in Yiddish, the longest epic poem to have survived the Holocaust. The pivotal ninth canto is a bold, even blasphemous, response to Parashat Ha’azinu.

Read More
Finding God and Ourselves Anew

Finding God and Ourselves Anew

Sep 3, 2013 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Ha'azinu | Rosh Hashanah | Shabbat Shuvah | Yom Kippur

During the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we devote ourselves to the process of repentance, attempting to tip the balance in our favor as we approach the Day of Atonement.

Read More
Entering the Promised Land

Entering the Promised Land

Oct 1, 2011 By Ofra Backenroth | Commentary | Ha'azinu

What does it mean to be a leader who, for 40 long years, led the people of Israel in the desert, providing for all their needs, and, in the end, was forbidden to enter the Promised Land?

Read More