Until Fatigue Overcomes Us

Some years Parshas Ha’azinu falls on Shabbos Shuva when we are preparing for Yom Kippur. If we are beinonim, neither complete tzaddikim nor complete rashaim, our lives are in the balance during those days. We may be written in the Book of Life on Yom Kippur if our teshuva is accepted, but we cannot be sure. Our trepidation will be palpable. Our davening will be intense –the posuk says about these ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur that, “Dirshu Hashem behimatzu – Seek Hashem when He can be found,” as the Rambam brings in Hilchos Teshuva. (2:6) With this in mind, we will concentrate on the warnings in Ha’azinu about improving our behavior, beginning with the first posuk – ‘Ha’azinu hashomayim va’adabeira vesishma ho’oretz imrei fi – Listen Heavens and I will speak, may the earth hear the words of my mouth.” Rashi comments, “Moshe said, I am flesh and blood. Tomorrow I will be dead. If the Jewish People will deny having made a covenant with Hashem, who will contradict them? Therefore he made the Heavens and Earth to be witnesses to testify that the Jewish People had indeed committed themselves to a covenant with Hashem. If we keep the mitzvos they will reward us by giving us dew, fruit and other produce but if we don’t keep the mitzvos, the Heavens will punish us by denying the rain, and the Earth will punish us by not growing its produce. Furthermore we will be liable to be exiled from Eretz Yisroel by idol worshippers.”

However, when Haa’azinu falls after Yom Kippur the atmosphere is different. We are confident that we have been written for life, that Hashem has accepted our teshuva and forgiven our sins. We ponder the amazing gift Hashem gave us in creating the concept of teshuva before he even created the world. “There is no tzaddik in the world who does only good and does not sin” (Koheles 7:20) That includes all of us. So without teshuva we could never start again with a clean slate. We would always have our sinful baggage with us. With Hashem’s gift of teshuva, if we are sincere, we can uproot our sins retrospectively. Amazingly, if we do teshuva out of love of Hashem, not out of fear of punishment, our aveiros become mitzvos. We begin again with our new ‘mitzvos’ to help us on our way.

We look at Ha’azinu with newly optimistic and joyful eyes. Hashem’s teachings are like rain which gives us life, like dew which delights everybody ; like wind on grass which enables it to grow and like drops of rain which strengthen each individual blade.(Rashi) In the Beis Hamikdash, Ha’azinu was read every Shabbos(Rosh Hashana 31a) because it strengthens our emuna. It describes the history of the world, dividing it into different eras. First we are told how Hashem brought us lovingly out of Mitzrayim as an eagle loves her young. He carried us out as on eagle’s wings, protecting us from the pursuing Egyptian army. He brought us into Eretz Yisroel where we enjoyed delicious fruit and honey, with meat in abundance. Unfortunately we failed to live up to the standards required and Hashem had to discipline us. A period of exile followed when Hashem will appear to have hidden His face but this too will come to an end when the nations of the world will be punished for their cruelty. How can we lose emuna even in golus when we see that it is all forecast, including the joyous end?

This brings us into Succos, Zeman Simchaseinu. Hashem’s great love empowers us. Our flimsy succah, vulnerable to the elements, represents our understanding that our survival is impossible, from a natural point of view. It is only through Hashem’s love for us, and guidance that we have survived throughout history, despite it seeming at times that He has hidden His face. We rejoice in the presence of the Shechina and strengthen our determination to be loyal to Him and love Him. And on Simchas Torah we will dance with the Torah either with our feet or in our hearts until fatigue overcomes us and we start the cycle of the Chumash yet again.

Manny Fekete’s Dvar Torah

In chapter 32 verse 48, Hashem tells Moshe to go up onto the mountain to die. Why are we ending off the Torah with something so sad?

The answer can be found in these words:

וַיְדַבֵּ֤ר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה בְּעֶ֛צֶם הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּ֖ה לֵאמֹֽר׃

That very day the LORD spoke to Moses.

Rashi says that this phrase is only found in three other places: In the description of the people who went onto Noach’s Ark, when Avraham had his bris, and when the Jews left Mitzrayim.

The link between these 4 moments is that they all end one chapter in Jewish history and start another. We could translate “בְּעֶ֛צֶם הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּ֖ה” as “on that momentous day” or “on that fateful day”. The phrase is used to tell us about moshe dying because it’s the end of one chapter, but at the same time the beginning of something incredible, we’re going into the Land of Israel! It is the perfect way to finish the torah.

We’re coming to the end of the torah, but we’re also celebrating the start of a new Jewish year and a new school year, so we have a new opportunity for learning torah, and working hard.