Summary: Ha’azinu is the 10th parasha in the Book of Debarim. It occurred on Moshe’s birthday, the last day of his life. HaAzinu is 44 stanzas of allegorical prose capturing Moshe’s final words of wisdom and warning to B’nei Yisrael before they entered the land of Cana’an.
The first part of HaAzinu called Heaven & Earth to witness that G-d, Creator of the Universe, founded a nation wandering ‘in a desert land,’ and shared with them a relationship of Parent to Child.
The second section lamented the people turning away from G-d and the painful consequences of their idolatrous behaviour. The prose ends with Bnei Yisrael again being redeemed by G-d – but not before having undergone much suffering,
At the end of HaAzinu, Moshe taught this ‘Song’ to Joshua and the Jewish people, reinforcing to them how ‘the length of their days’ depended on behaving well in their new land. G-d commanded Moshe to ascend Mt Avarim where his death would be like that of Aharon‘s – for failing to sanctify G-d’s name at Mei Meribah.
Comment: Though we have a tradition that chapter numbers in Tanakh weren’t designated by Jewish sources, it would seem highly appropriate for HaAzinu to be Chapter 32 (Lamed Bet – Lev – heart).
Moshe shared a message meant to reside in the people’s hearts perpetually. Whether HaAzinu ever gained the popularity of ‘platinum sales’, nonetheless, passing-on wisdom from generation to generation is one of the small ways we attempt to extend our reach towards immortality – even before we’re gone.
Today, fortunately we can study the works of the Babylonian Talmudists and Spanish Codifiers among others. The merit of our study keeps their works alive and, at the same time, enlivens us as well. Leaving a spiritual legacy is something we should all consider.
Apropos to Sukkot, Rabbi Jonny Solomon wrote this week about the 21st century malady of ‘affluenza’ – an over-emphasis on physical pleasures and comforts that can lead to spiritual malaise. ‘The way to ensure we don’t succumb to “affluenza” is to remind ourselves we’re mere travellers in this world, which is precisely the message of Sukkot. By leaving our permanent homes and dwelling in a Sukkah, we remember this world is itself only a temporary residence, and what’s most important is what we do, not what we have.’