Parsha

For the week ending 11 September 2010 / 2 Tishri 5771

Parshat Ha'azinu

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair - www.seasonsofthemoon.com
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Overview

Almost all of Ha'azinu is a song, written in the Torah in two parallel columns. Moshe summons the heavens and the earth to stand as eternal witnesses to what will happen if the Jewish People sin and do not obey the Torah. He reminds the people to examine the history of the world, and note how the Jewish People are rescued from obliteration in each generation - that G-d "pulls the strings" of world events so that Bnei Yisrael can fulfill their destiny as His messengers in the world. G-d's kindness is such that Israel should be eternally grateful, not just for sustaining them in the wilderness, but for bringing them to a land of amazing abundance, and for defeating their enemies. But, this physical bounty leads the people to become self-satisfied and over-indulged. Physical pleasures corrupt the morals of the people. They worship empty idols and powerless gods, and indulge in all kinds of depravity. G-d will then let nations with no moral worth subjugate Israel and scatter them across the world. However, their only purpose is as a rod to chastise the Jewish People. When these nations think that it is through their own power that they have dominated Israel, G-d will remind them that they are no more that a tool to do His will. The purpose of the Jewish People is fundamental - that man should know his Creator. Neither exile nor suffering can sever the bond between G-d and His people, and eventually in the final redemption this closeness will be restored. G-d will then turn His anger against the enemies of Israel, as though they were His enemies, showing no mercy to the tormentors of His people. G-d then gives His last commandment to Moshe: That he should ascend Mount Nevo and be gathered there to his people.

Insights

A Copper Penny

“For G-d’s portion is His people; Yaakov is the measure of His heritage.” (32:9)

Once there was a young boy standing in the courtyard of the shul in Vilna. He was bent over, his eyes scouring the pavement of the courtyard, searching intently for something. He looked here and there. Occasionally he would stoop lower and examine the ground to see if he had found what he was searching for. In frustration, tears began to well in his eyes. Then, as he continued his search, tears began to run down his cheeks.

The time came for Mincha, the afternoon prayer, and the courtyard began to fill with people. They all noticed the little boy crying and searching. “What are you looking for?” they asked him. “My mother gave me a copper penny and I lost it on my way to cheder” came the tearful reply.

Everyone started to help him look for the copper penny. They scoured the courtyard. Not a single square inch was left unexamined.

It was not to be found.

Someone said to the little boy, “Show me exactly where you were when you lost it.” In all innocence the little boy replied: “Actually I didn’t lose it here. I lost it in the street.” “So why are you looking for it here in the courtyard of the shul?” came the startled reply. “Because the street is all muddy and dirty and I didn’t want to get my shoes all messed up.”

Our mystical sources teach us that there are many worlds “above” this one. Compared to those worlds, the world in which we live is a very dark dank place. A place of messy physicality. A place of darkness. A place of concealment. If “G-d’s portion is His people; Yaakov is the measure of His heritage”,then why did G-d put us in this lowly world? Why didn’t he put us in a higher more spiritual world?

The Torah is the essence of the whole creation. If it were not for the Torah, the physical world and all its myriad laws would never have come into being. The Torah does not exist for the benefit of the incorporeal spiritual beings of the upper worlds, but for the Jewish people to labor in its mysteries and intricacies down in this lowest world.

When a jewel is buried in the mud, there’s no alternative but to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. For if we search for riches where there are none, even if we can conduct the search in climate-controlled air-conditioned luxury, we won’t even end up with a copper penny.

  • Source: Chafetz Chaim

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