Haazinu: A poem with stanzas

The poem that has guided the Jewish people.

Rabbi Berel Wein,

Judaism Rabbi Berel Wein
Rabbi Berel Wein
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Haazinu is a poem with definite stanzas. It is one of the few places in the Torah where Jewish law dictates where the stops in the Torah reading should take place. This is done in order to retain the integrity of the poetic form of the reading. Aside from the aesthetic value of poetry itself, the Torah wishes to emphasize to us that there is a rhythm, order and cadence in life that influences us in myriad ways.

         

Though poetry can be freestyle, non-rhyming and sometimes jarringly dissonant, it nevertheless always carries with it a sense of melody. It allows for memory to operate in a way that prose does not. It emphasizes to us the infinite wisdom and beauty of language itself and always carries with it a sense of nuance; of words not written or expressed, but evoked by the rhythm of the poetry.

The Torah describes itself as a poem, a song, the melody of which is intangible but always present within us. It is no wonder that the concluding chapters of the Torah are written in this poetic form, for it is the memory of these words that has guided and preserved the Jewish people for the many millennia of our existence.

Language is not only words but rather how the words are put together. The Torah is always read as a melody accompanied by musical notes and poetic punctuation. The words of the Torah enter our ears and minds while the melody and poetry reach our hearts and souls.

The Torah reading begins with the instruction to listen. This is not only a request that is made to the Jewish people and to humanity generally but is made to the entire universe, to nature itself and to the heavens and the earth. This comes to inform us that there is a poetic rhythm to the universe itself, and part of our life challenge is to hear and recognize that melody.

There are very different melodies that exist in the world. There is a famous anecdote regarding a well-known Jewish philosopher of the past generation who was raised in a German school in the 1930s. He underwent the horror of Hitler and after the war emigrated to Canada. He wrote, as a preface to one of his books, that when he was a schoolchild in Germany his father allowed him to sing the melody of the German and Christian songs along with his class as long as he did not mouth the actual words. He now realizes, he wrote, that he should not even have sung the melody. Heaven and earth transmitted to us the melody of the Creator, so to speak.

The Jewish soul also has the capacity to tune in to that eternal melody and find the right frequency to be able to hear it and absorb it. Moshe, in his final oration to the Jewish people inspires us to live by the words of the Torah and to sing its melody with our voices and to hear it in our hearts.

Shabbat shalom

Chag sameach





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