D’var Torah for September 21, 2018
This week we will be reading from parashat Ha’azinu, the last full Torah reading of the year. Next week we will be reading the Torah portions for Sukkot, and then we will conclude our annual Torah reading cycle with Simchat Torah. There we combine V’zot Hab’rachah with Beresheet.
Ha’azinu is often referred to as the Song of Moses. It contains some of Moses’ final words to the Israelites. In the words of the Plaut Torah Commentary, “Now, at the borders of the Promised Land, Moses celebrates the eventual realization of God’s will for this ‘treasured people.’ He sings a hymn of hope to an Israel that will prevail in spirit as well as in body. The poem warns; it instructs; it gives hope. Israel’s past history has amply demonstrated God’s love and care, and these will not be found wanting in the future” (The Torah A Modern Commentary pg. 1398).
In this way, Ha’azinu parallels our own experiences with these past days during theYamim Norai’im, the High Holy Days. Our liturgy has been focused on hope through transformation. The central idea being that we are empowered individuals and communities who have the capacity and ability to become that which we strive to be: more loving, more caring, more compassionate, more patient, and the like. It is also a call to spiritual arms, if you will, that all of us will continue to be held accountable for the choices we make now and going forward. Thus the central idea expressed both inHa’azinu and the Yamim Norai’im is that there is always time to turn and return to pathways of Godliness and holiness.
So even as we have hopefully recovered from the challenges of the fast and spiritual introspection, may we be inspired to remember the lessons learned over the High Holy Days and use them to guide us going forward, for they are not merely a moment in time but should be part of our daily existence. Holiness abounds all around us, we just need to choose to be guided by it.
Rabbi Benjamin Sharff