Parashat Ha'azinu

Entering The Void

In his final speech, Moses warns us against repeating his mistakes, but he also communicates the passion and love we need to achieve our potential.

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Provided by the Union for Reform Judaism, the central body of Reform Judaism in North America.

Parashah Overview

  • Moses sings his last song, a love poem to God and a chastisement of the people, who are not worthy of Adonai. (32:1–6)

  • The poem recounts the blessings that God has bestowed on the Israelites, the wicked deeds they have committed, and the punishments that God then inflicted upon them. (32:7–43)

  • God tells Moses to begin his ascent of Mount Nebo, from where he will see the Land of Israel from a distance but will not be allowed to enter it. (32:45–52)

Focal Point

Give ear, O heavens, let me speak;/Let the earth hear the words I utter!/May my discourse come down as the rain,/My speech distill as the dew,/Like showers on young growth,/Like droplets on the grass./For the name of Adonai I proclaim…. 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; through it you shall long endure on the land that you are to possess upon crossing the Jordan (Deuteronomy 32:1–3; 45–47).

Your Guide

Why does Moses invoke heaven and earth when it is the Israelite people whom he is addressing?

How does Moses convey his humanity in this song?Why would Moses think that his final words might be regarded as “trifling” by his audience?How does the water imagery in Moses’ description of the Torah make his point?In what way does this closing statement about enduring on the land attempt to balance the reality of Israel’s exile in Egypt?Why does Moses address the heavens at the start of his song and address the Israelites directly at its conclusion?

By the Way…

Sons, heed the discipline of a father. Listen and learn discernment, for I give you good instruction. Do not forsake My teaching (Proverbs 4:1–2).

Honor your father and your mother so that you may long endure on the land that Adonai your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12).

“It is your very life” (Deuteronomy 32:47). A person who leaves a child like himself [or herself] is not considered to have died. That being the case, a person lives eternally through the Torah (Shlomo Kluger in Torah Gems, vol. III, p. 328).

Your Guide

In Proverbs 4:1–2, sons are instructed to heed the discipline of a father. In his song, Moses instructs the Israelites to take all his words to heart. What are the similarities in these two texts? Does Moses regard the Israelites as his children?

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Susan Friedman is the rabbi of Beth Shalom, Cary, N.C.