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Listen and Learn

Listen, you heavens, and I will speak;
    hear, you earth, the words of my mouth. — Deuteronomy 32:1

The Torah portion for this week is Ha’azinu, which means “listen,” from Deuteronomy 32:1–52, and the Haftorah is from 2 Samuel 22:1–51.

This week’s Torah portion consists of only one chapter and is among the shortest readings of the year. But don’t let that fool you – this portion is packed. With the exception of the last few verses, this entire portion is the “Song of Moses” that he sung to the children of Israel just before his death. In it, Moses recounts the children of Israel’s history — their past, present, and future. It is enigmatic, pregnant with meaning, and poetic. It is an eternal song.

The portion is called Ha'azinu, meaning “listen.” It comes from the first verse in which Moses says, “Listen, you heavens, and I will speak; hear, you earth, the words of my mouth.” Moses’ song is centered around the partnership between God and the children of Israel. Moses was the “broker” who arranged the partnership, and he needed “witnesses” to validate the “deal.”’ So he called upon heaven and earth to serve as eternal witnesses to the unbreakable bond between God and His chosen people.

From this perspective, we gain an appreciation for the eternal relationship between God and Israel. However, there is another message that allows us to understand our own personal, individual relationships with God, right here, right now, today.

Listen – like the heavens. Hear – like the earth.

Imagine for a moment that you are a cloud in the sky looking down on the world and your life. Feel the peace and freedom that comes from being above the earth. It is quiet, serene, and tranquil. From on high, everything below seems so small. From above, life on earth takes on a different meaning. What seems so important down below appears insignificant from on high. Where challenges seem insurmountable from the ground, life appears full of possibilities from the heavens. Observing life from above allows us to see the “bigger picture.” We have new clarity about our lives and greater hope for our future.

Now imagine that you are the ground. What do you hear? What have you witnessed? “If these walls could talk . . .,” people often say. What would the ground say if it could talk? What lessons can be learned from simply observing how people behave? Step outside yourself for a moment and look at yourself close up. Observing life from this perspective is not always pretty, but it is certainly instructive.

As we read this week’s Torah portion – about the children of Israel’s past, the present, and the future – let us examine our own past, present, and future. Let us listen to the messages from above and from below, so that we will know exactly where we belong in this world.

 

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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September 18, 2017
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