Parshat Haazinu/Yom HaKippurim Vol.10 No.5
Date of issue: 8&10 Tishrei 5761 -- October 7&9, 2000
issue has been sponsored
by the Apfel family
in honor of Jeremy's Bar Mitzvah.
Whose Fault is it Anyway?
by Rabbi Hershel Solnica
Shichet Low Lo Banav Mumam, "Is corruption His? No, the blemish is His children's" (Devarim 32:5).
Surely this poem is a very serious rebuke not only to parents but to children and to the entire Jewish community as well. The Or Hachaim underscores that when corruption prevails, tragedy follows. It is typical for a person to seek someone to blame. Hashem is always the first scapegoat; parents, teachers, and peers follow as common excuses for our misdeeds.
This precedent begins by stating, Haazinu Hashamayim...Vitishma Haaretz, "Give ear, O heavens...let the earth hear" (32:1). This opening sentence is very telling and sharp. The Torah tells us listen, hear, and hearken on whichever level you are able. But do not forget: all corrupt deeds are yours, and you will pay for each of them.
No clearer lesson can be given to us before Rosh Hashana and Yom HaKippurim Whose fault is it, anyway? The answer should be, "It is my fault and I will pay for my deeds," but instead we blame Hashem, parents, teachers, or friends. These are all just excuses.
We live in a very exciting and lively era. It is full of opportunities and gifts from Hashem. We live in the golden era of Torah with, Baruch Hashem, great economic prosperity. The opportunities of travel, education, and pleasure are incredible. When the elements of Torah-ethics and Torah-Hashkafa are inserted into each of those opportunities, the result is Beracha.
Great numbers of students at Yeshiva high schools spent the summer in Kollel in Israel and almost every graduate goes to Israel to learn for at least one year. The opportunities for Torah, Chessed, and scholarship fill the four cubits of our great Yeshiva system.
The only question is Haazinu, are we listening to Hashem's call? If we are, then surely our blessings will be great in the upcoming year. If we do not listen then it is our own fault. We must realize that we face serious challenges of abuse. Be it alcohol, drugs, gambling, or violence, be it adult or adolescence, we must face up to our responsibility.
On Rosh Hashana we have the option of facing Hashem as Banim, children who listen, or Avadim, slaves to our addiction and temptation.
Let us listen. Let us keep Hashem's Torah. I pray that we will have a happy and healthy new year.
Listen Heaven and Earth!
by Tzvi Kahn
Haazinu Hashamayim Vaadabera..., "Give ear, O heavens, and I will speaků" (Devarim 32:1).
Parshat Haazinu, which mostly consists of Moshe's Shira of prophecy, rebuke of Bnai Yisrael, and praise of Hashem, begins with some rather cryptic words that demand explanation. Moshe starts the Shira by saying, "Give ear, O heavens and I will speak; and may the earth hear the words of my mouth." Rashi explains that there are two reasons why Moshe began the Shira by asking the heaven and earth to listen to him. First, Moshe wanted the everlasting heaven and earth to be eternal witnesses on behalf of Bnai Yisrael in case anyone should try to claim that Bnai Yisrael did not accept the covenant that Moshe had made with them in Parshat Nitzavim. Second, if Bnai Yisrael ever did break the covenant, these witnesses would always be there to punish them: the heavens would withhold rain and the earth would not bring forth crops.
The Or Hachaim presents a much deeper analysis of this Pasuk, which raises some interesting points that are not easily apparent. He begins his analysis of these seven words by asking several basic questions on the grammar and terminology used:
1) The choice of the word Vaadabera, "and
I will speak," seems to be a rather peculiar one. The Pasuk
would sound much smoother if that word was replaced with Divari,
"my words," thus reading Haazinu Hashamayim Divari,
"Give ear, O heavens, to my words!"
2) We know that the Torah never wastes words. Therefore, would it not have been much simpler to group the heavens and earth together, thus reading Haazinu Hashamayim Vehaaretz or Shimu Shamayim Vaaretz?
3) For what reason was the word Haazinu, "give ear," used for the heavens, but the word Vetishma, "and may you listen," applied for the earth?
4) Why did the heavens warrant a command ("Give ear"), while the land did not ("and may you listen")?
5) Why is the word Vaadabera, which is a word implying a strong and firm tone of voice, used for the heavens, while the word Imrei, a word suggesting a much softer and gentler tone of voice, is used for the earth?
6) The word Pi, "my mouth," seems extraneous. Could not the phrase have simply read Vetishma Haaretz Imri, "and may the earth hear my words," instead of, "and may the earth hear the words of my mouth?"
The Or Hachaim begins to address these questions by quoting a statement of Chazal that relates to this Pasuk. Chazal write that since Moshe was spiritually much closer to heaven, he used the words Haazinu Hashamayim. On the other hand, the prophet Yeshaya was, on a spiritual level, much farther away from heaven than Moshe. Therefore, when he began his rebuke to Bnai Yisrael, he started out with the words Shimu Shamayim Vehaazini Eretz, "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth" (Yeshaya 1:2). While this does not really resolve any of the Or Hachaim's questions, it does fit in with one of the translations of Haazinu that the Or Hachaim now discusses.
The Or Hachaim explains that there are two ways to define the word Haazinu: either Hatei Ozen, the listener is very far away from the speaker and must use some effort for the speaker to be heard, or Taazin Oznecha, the listener is very close to the speaker and the listener requires miniscule effort to hear the speaker. Although Chazal's statement seems to fit best with the second translation, the Or Hachaim states that we can even analyze the Pasuk according to the first definition and resolve all of our questions in the process.
The Or Hachaim explains that since the heavens are very far away, Moshe had to use a much stronger and more commanding word when telling it to listen to him. However, since the earth was right beneath him, such a strong word was unnecessary; that is why the word Vetishma, which is a relatively weak form of listening, was used. This clearly answers the second and third questions, but by building upon it, we can also answer the remaining questions. The word Vaadabera as opposed to Devari is necessary because it denotes a more powerful form of speaking; although they both contain the same root, the word Vaadabera, "and I will speak" is a more powerful way of speaking to something as vast and distant as the heavens than the word Devari. Similarly, the heavens were commanded but the earth was not; the heavens are so far away that a stronger form of speech was needed. By the same token, the heavens only needed the use of the word Vaadabera while the earth only needed the words Imrei Pi the earth was so close that it did not need such strong term such as Adabera. Finally, the word Pi is not extraneous because it confirms the fact that the earth is so close that it could hear the very words of Moshe's mouth very clearly.
In light of the Or Hachaim's idea, another question is apparent. In the Pasuk in Yeshaya, the word Shimu is used for the heavens and the word Haazini for the earth! How can the Or Hachaim defend his idea when taking into account the Pasuk in Yeshaya?
The Or Hachaim gives a clever solution to this problem. In Haazinu, the prophet was actually quoting the will of God. To the Almighty, the heavens are very close while the earth is far away, as it says in Tehillim, "The heavens are God's, but the earth He has given to mankind" (115:16), and in Yeshaya, "The heavens are My throne and the earth is My footstool" (66:1).
Bearing in mind everything we have said up to this point, the Or Hachaim now suggests that this Pasuk can be understood on a much deeper level. He explains that the Shamayim and Eretz do not really refer to the heavens and the earth; in actuality, Shamayim means the spiritual dimension of man while the Eretz is the physical dimension of man. This means that when Moshe mentioned the Shamayim he was really talking to those who were on a high spiritual level but when he mentioned the Eretz he was talking to those who were on a low spiritual level, those who were more interested in pursuing vain physical pleasures. Thus, Moshe talked to the righteous individuals in a commanding tone of voice because they were already connected to Hashem and knew their obligations to him. However, those among Bnai Yisrael who were not as righteous were spoken to by Moshe in a softer tone of voice because if Moshe had spoken to them with a more commanding tone they would not have listened. We see from here how well Moshe understood the psychology of human beings: when it comes to rebuking somebody, it must be done in a soft tone of voice or the person will not listen.
As we approach Yom HaKippurim, let us strive to reach the point where we will be known in Hashem's eyes as the Shamayim, as a people on a high spiritual level, capable of "giving ear" to the word of Hashem.
by Yoel Eis
"The mighty Rock, His deeds are perfect, for all His ways are justice. He is a God of faithfulness and without fault; He is just and fair" (Devarim 32:4).
Parshat Haazinu, the second to last Parsha in the Torah, includes the final teachings of Moshe to Bnai Yisrael. The above verse is the first statement following the few introductory lines of the song of Haazinu. Its selection as the opening statement is indicative of its importance.
When we see things that appear to be unjust, we may question Divine wisdom. There is so much suffering in the world that we can only sit back in amazement and wonder how this could occur in a just world. Moshe himself asked Hashem to reveal the secret of Divine justice, but Moshe's request was denied.
Moshe's devotion to Hashem and his loyalty as the shepherd of the flock during the forty years of wandering in the desert certainly earned him a reward. Moshe had only one request: to be allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael. Was this too big a request? Was Moshe's hitting the rock instead of speaking to it so grave a transgression that it warranted the severest of all possible punishments? Could Hashem not find it within His infinite mercy to forgive Moshe's one sin?
The Midrash tell us that Moshe brought 515 pleas before Hashem that would have shattered a heart of stone, yet Hashem, Who is of infinite mercy, would not budge.
Moshe's first statement in Haazinu is, "Hashem is perfect, just, and fair. All His ways are justice." Did Moshe understand why Hashem was not giving in? Obviously not, because if he did he would not have kept persisting to have the decree revoked. Moshe's statement was one of absolute faith. It was his acceptance of Divine judgment being perfect even though it defied all logic.
At times we may pray fervently and sincerely for mercy from Hashem, and if our Tefilot go unanswered we may be resentful. Moshe did not teach us that we must approve of Divine judgment, but rather that we must accept it and have faith that somehow it is perfect, fair, and just. (Living Each Week, Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski)
The Agony and the Ecstasy
by Rabbi Zvi Grumet
The experience associated with Yom HaKippurim is often linked to thoughts of fasting, the five Inuyim, seemingly endless prayers, sin, and repentance. The central role played by confession is hard to overlook, with ten confessions recited throughout the course of the day. Indeed, many people find the confessions to be one of the most challenging aspects of the prayers, as they must confess sins they do not believe they committed or have little intention of refraining from in the future. In one of his famous Shiurim on Teshuva, Rav Soloveitchik, z"l, highlighted a different aspect of confession that may be helpful. He observes that there are a number of confessions that are particularly curious - one being that the high priest confesses the sins of his family, all of the Kohanim, and the entire Jewish People. How can one person, no matter how noble, confess the sins of another? If confession must emanate from a true sense of heartfelt contrition, how can one individual plumb the depths another's heart of another to the point that he can confess his friend's sins?
The Rav suggested that aside from the usual aspect of confession there is an element of atonement linked to the very act of confession; the process of confession itself serves as part of the atonement process. It is for that reason that the Kohen Gadol can, and must, confess for the nation, because his confession is not as much part of the process of repentance as it is a critical component of the process of atonement.
This insight adds a new dimension to our own confessions and to the entire experience of Yom HaKippurim. Each one of us engages in a variety of processes on Yom HaKippurim, repentance being one of them. Our confessions can certainly be part of our internal grappling with choices we made during the prior year, but they can alternately be seen as part of an atonement process as we become our own high priests on Yom HaKippurim. We can transform our confessions from introspectional into somewhat detached acts of atonement and allow that process to continue as we transform ourselves and our prayers throughout the course of the day.
This model sheds new light on the experience of Yom HaKippurim. After all, Yom HaKippurim literally means a day of atonement. Historically, the day is identified as the day on which Hashem gave Moshe the second set of tablets, signifying reconciliation between Him and the Jewish People. Yom HaKippurim is a day of celebration; a joyous day on which we delight in the knowledge that Hashem cleanses us as we cleanse ourselves, modeled after the original Yom HaKippurim in the Torah. The Mussaf of Yom HaKippurim, which highlights the service of the Kohen Gadol on Yom HaKippurim, also describes the intense joy and celebration that accompanied the conclusion of the service, and the Gemara describes how the Kohen Gadol did not reach his home until late that night as a result of the dancing that accompanied him on his way home.
As we allow ourselves to feel the purifying joy of Yom HaKippurim, we should also allow our experience to melt into a true inner reckoning and from that inner reckoning to flow back to an even greater experience of the celebration of atonement.
Halacha of the Week
One should pause briefly between the words Vayikra Bishem and Hashem that are recited in the Selichot (Avudraham cited by the Mishna Berura 581:4). The words Roa Gezar in Avinu Malkeinu should also be recited in one breath (Taz cited by Mishna Berura 584:3).
Food for Thought
by Dani Gross
1) 32:4 says Col Derachav Mishpat, Hashem's ways are all Mishpat. However, the 13 Midot talk of Hashem judging through Rachamim. How can one resolve this contradiction? [Hint: See the Or Hachaim s.v. Tzadik Veyashar Hu.]
If you have a response to this questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org Responses may be published upon agreement of the provider.
Staff at time of publication:
Editors-in-Chief: Avi-Gil Chaitovsky, Dani Gross
Managing Editors: Moshe Glasser, Zevi Goldberg
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