Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson

When Was this Song Written?


Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

Tishrei 8 5780
Once again, we listen to the lofty, eternal song (Shirat Ha’azinu) which bursts forth from the ancient Torah scrolls, and our ears will never have heard it too many times. We again pick up with embarrassment and guilt the echo that the eternal witnesses, the heavens and the earth, send us in response to these words. They are exposed, after all, to the past and the future; they heard at its time when Hashem originally said these words and saw how both the blessing and the curse came true, how the warning was connected to the punishment.
Slowly we are approaching the end of the Torah scrolls. At the same time, the life of Moshe, the greatest of the prophets, who had no peer before him or after him, is being "rolled until its end." When we read the parshiyot of parting from Moshe, we see that he was not so concerned about dying but that he was not seeing his life task to its end. The Land to which he strove to lead his nation was now within reach, but he would not be allowed to enter. "For from opposite it you will see the Land, and there you will not go, to the Land that I am giving to Bnei Yisrael" (Devarim 32:52).
It was not easy for him to leave his flock. He knew there were great challenges before them. The contact with the indigenous peoples of the Land, so many of whom were steeped in idol worship, would create spiritual challenges. It is, after all, easier to serve a god that does not make moral demands on its followers but just goes along with what one’s evil inclination tells him. Moshe could prophetically see how his great efforts would be partially destroyed and people would stray from Hashem and embrace foreign gods. How could the nation forget its grand role in the world? What Moshe was unable to carry out in practice at the time he tried to put into words before his death to leave with the people. For one last time, he collected the people and gave unparalleled, strong expressions of truths. These truths, which will never fade, were presented with the introduction: "Listen, o heavens, and I will speak, and the land shall hear the utterings of my mouth" (ibid. 1).
When were these words said? Was it really thousands of years ago?! Doesn’t it seem that it was just yesterday?! The ideas are so fresh and accurate for our own times! We read the warnings. While they could be blurred by the pass of times, they also foresaw the future with the confidence of the past: "Yeshurun (Israel) became fattened and kicked" (ibid. 15). We see how this happened in the times of the kings and the Later Prophets, who saw it and warned about it without real success. The p’sukim that describe impending doom and destruction are thunderous (see ibid. 22, 26). They make us picture the flames of destruction and our predecessors walking, chained, into exile.
Yet we read also words of encouragement and comfort, which always allowed us to look toward the future with hope and belief in the End of Days. Even if it has been delayed, it will indeed come. "Let the nations sing the praise of His nation, as the blood of His servants he will take vengeance. Revenge will come to His enemies, and His Land will atone for His nation" (ibid. 43)
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