Haazinu: Jewish angst

There appears to be a continuing and gnawing frustration and feeling of dissatisfaction that is present in Jewish society, no matter how great our material blessings and social successes are.

Rabbi Berel Wein, | updated: 12:50

Judaism Rabbi Berel Wein
Rabbi Berel Wein
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Our great teacher Moshe (Moses), in his concluding hymn regarding the future of the Jewish people, calls as his witnesses heaven and earth. These witnesses are, in human terms, eternal and omnipresent. They will always be there to testify that Moshe concluded a binding covenant between God and Israel, and that this covenant is a symbol of eternity and destiny.

Heaven and earth represent the physical world and the changing, yet seemingly unending nature of the planet that we inhabit. King Solomon taught us that all things human are subject to change and subject to new circumstances, but that the earth and its natural forces implanted within it from the moment of original creation, always remain the same.

One of the lessons that can easily be derived from this is how puny our strength is, in comparison to the forces of nature. Volcanoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, rains and drought are all part of regular occurrences in our lives and have been from the beginning of human existence. To this extent, human beings are always tempting fate, since we are always so vulnerable regarding these great natural forces. 

Operating beyond our control, and many times even beyond a minimum of our understanding, they are certainly beyond our ability to exactly predict when and if they will occur and affect our lives. Clearly, Moshe could not have found better witnesses that would bind us to our covenant than those which cannot be affected by us and are not subject to our pressures or influences.

The hymn on this week's Torah reading has been taught, over the centuries, to Jewish children and fixed in their memory bank. It is these words that haunt all Jewish history and create that feeling of angst and uncertainty that so characterizes the Jewish personality, especially in our time. The Jewish world today has far more physical riches and ostensible security than it ever has had, over the past numerous centuries. Yet, it appears that a sizable portion of the Jewish world is not happy with themselves, with the Jewish state, and, certainly, not with the Jewish religion and its Torah. 

There appears to be a continuing and gnawing frustration and feeling of dissatisfaction that is present in Jewish society, no matter how great our material blessings and social successes are. This lack of satisfaction is directly traceable to the words of the hymn that is the centerpiece of this week's Torah reading. Moshe guaranteed that this hymn, like the entire Torah itself, would never be forgotten, and, could never be eliminated from the Jewish memory bank and psyche.

Thus, like the eternity of the witnesses – heaven and earth – to our covenant, this song of destiny is also one of unity, and one that will always be remembered - even if the memory of it many times is only subconscious. It becomes the secret of Jewish survival, and the impetus that guides us forward, many times against our own will and conscious knowledge.





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