Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Ha'azinu
To dedicate this lesson

Haazinu - Shuvah


Rabbi Berel Wein

Moshe calls upon heaven and earth to hear his message of the eternity of the covenant between God and Israel, a covenant that has influenced all of human history for over three millennia. But with all due respect, it is not only the heavens and earth that need to listen and pay attention to Moshe’s message. Rather, it is for us, the people of Israel that needs to listen and hearken to the words of Moshe.

All of Jewish history is contained within this week’s parsha. The parsha grants us a sense of perspective regarding current events and has the ability to vitalize us in our attempts to achieve physical and spiritual successes. But the prerequisite for all of this is the ability to listen, to recognize, and to learn from the words of Moshe.

In Tehilim we read that the Lord, so to speak, bemoans the inability or unwillingness of Israel to listen and to hear the Godly message. The verse says: "If my people would only listen to Me....and walk in My paths....then I would destroy their enemies and My hand would smite their enemies."

Apparently we could be spared all of the terror and doubtful peacemaking that currently characterizes our minds and emotions. The prophet Yeshayahu bitterly complains that the Lord has told him: "Stop up the ears of this people so they can hear no longer...lest they begin to understand and return [to Me] and be healed." One of the great keys to life is the ability to hear other opinions, to listen to valid criticisms, to be a true listener and not just a constant talker.

The covenant between God and Israel requires "pay attention" listening. Moshe previously in the book of Dvarim uses the word "haskeit" meaning "pay attention" to introduce subjects that he wants Israel to hear and listen to. The covenant is not merely background music to our lives and to current events. It is the single supreme factor that guides our lives and forms the events in the lives of Jews individually and the Jewish people nationally.

It was not for naught that Jewish children throughout the ages were required to memorize this parsha of Haazinu. This song is our constitution, our history and our destiny all rolled into a, relatively speaking, minimum amount of verses. The failure to realize this, to really pay attention to its words and prophesies, has exacted a terrible toll on our nation over these past many centuries, but especially so in the last century of Jewish experience.

We hear the covenant every day in our media and news reports but rarely do we put any of this in proper perspective - into the demands and consequences of the covenant’s enforcement by Heaven upon us. As we near the completion of our annual reading of the Torah we also hope that we are nearing the end of the enforcement of the negative parts of the covenant upon us. Great things are promised as part of this covenant to us and God’s promises certainly may be relied upon.
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