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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Ha'azinu

HAAZINU

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There are two major songs/poems that appear in the Torah. One is the great song of deliverance, which was the reaction of Moshe and the Jewish people to their being saved from the bondage of Egypt and the waters of Yam Suf. The other is that of this week's parsha, Haazinu. This song/poem is also authored by Moshe but this was composed at the end of the forty-year sojourn of the Jewish people in the desert of Sinai, as Moshe himself departs from life in this world.

The circumstances and certainly the tone of both songs are obviously different. The song of Yam Suf is a song of exultation, triumph and the relief of deliverance from a brutal foe and fate. But it is basically a poem of the past, what has already occurred and an acknowledgment of God's past goodness towards Israel.

This week, in Haazinu, the song is of much darker hue. It is visionary, prophetic and somber. It sees the great challenges of the Jewish future that lie before this people that Moshe so loved and loyally served. It is a song that will accompany the Jewish people throughout their long and tortured road of exile, persecution, survival and eventual triumph.

To our generation, standing as we do thirty-five centuries after Moshe spoke these words, this is a clear and incisive description of what has befallen us and our mission in the world. Haazinu is current events and not merely a recording of our past. Both poems of Moshe are essential to the furtherance of Jewish life and society. But they each transmit a different message.

The ability to live, so to speak, in the past and in the future at one and the same time is a particularly Jewish trait. The Jewish people have a long memory and collectively, even if not individually, we remember everything that has befallen us. Tragically for many Jews of our time this memory has failed and disappeared in our current society.

Only a minority of the Jewish world recites Moshe’s song at the Yam Suf in daily prayer services. The deliverance from Egypt and the splitting of the sea at Yam Suf are no longer even distant memories for large numbers of Jews. Forgetting the song of Yam Suf is tantamount to eventually excluding one’s self from Jewish life and society.

However, forgetting the song of Haazinu is even more damaging to the individual Jew and to the nation. Those who live only in the present and do not glimpse the greatness of the future truly cut themselves off from participation in that future. The poem of Haazinu promises us repentance and redemption, serenity and a better world.

Without such a vision and a belief that the song of Moshe here in Haazinu was accurate and true, the Jewish people could never have survived the long night of our exile and troubles. This song was "to be placed in their mouths" as the witness for all of our history and a valid proof of the just entitlements of our future. Our task is to rededicate ourselves to fulfill the goals of this great song of Haazinu in the blessed good year that is now upon us.
Rabbi Dov Berl Wein
The rabbi of the "HANASI" congregation in Yerushalim, head of the Destiny foundation, former head of the OU, Rosh Yeshiva of 'sharai Tora" and rabbi of the "Beit Tora" congregation, Monsey, New York.
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