Parashas Haazinu – The Harmony of Creation
This week’s sedra is Parashas Haazinu which is a mere 52 possukim and is made up predominantly of a shirah (song) which Moshe spoke of at the end of last week’s Parasha, Vayeilech. According to the Ramban, Haazinu is called a shirah because it always chanted by Klal Yisrael and the actual format that it is written in is in the form of poetic verses. The shirah is therefore both a poetic depiction of the calamities that will befall Israel if it sins and also an upbeat description of the ultimate joy that will come with the final redemption and how Hashem will punish those who rose up against us whilst we were in exile. It is therefore described by the mefarshim as prophetic, with it spelling out exactly what will happen to the Jewish people until the end of days. Parashas Haazinu is therefore literally meant to have everything and everyone in it, a concept we shall discuss in more detail below.
With this being the penultimate sedra with only the final blessings from Moshe left in next week’s concluding parasha of the Torah, it is important to ask why the format is that of a shirah, a song? The Targum Yonasan in his commentary to Shir Hashirim brings down that there are in fact ten instances whereby we find songs in our history, and Haazinu is the fourth of these in order of time. The first was written, ironically enough, by the first man, Adam, in Gan Eden where he composed ‘מזמור שיר ליום השבת/Mizmor shir leyon heShabbat’ which we recite every Shabbat in our praise of its greatness. We then of course see by the splitting of the Red Sea, the singing of ‘שירת הים/the song at the sea’ by Moshe and the nation of Israel for the miraculous way in which Hashem destroyed the pursuing Egyptian army. In Parashas Chukas we have the song in praise of the Well of Miriam and then the next in order is this week’s Parasha of Haazinu. The other songs can be found when Yehoshua fought the Emorites in Givon and the sun famously stopped its course for the sake of the Jewish army, there is also the song composed by Devorah and Barak when Hashem gave them an easy victory over the Canaanite nations. Chana wrote a song after she gave birth to Shmuel HaNavi following many years of being barren. King Dovid composed a shira to Hashem at the end of his life and of course King Shlomo wrote Shir HaShirim. The Targum Yonasan teachs that the tenth and final shirah will be sung by the Jewish people when we are redeemed from the current exile and it will be the ‘greatest song’. So what is the significance of a shirah, and what does this format of the Torah represent?
In Parashas Vayeilech, Hashem revealed to Moshe that Israel will fall from its lofty spiritual status in the future and will commit the sin of Avodah Zarah, we are told that Hashem therefore gave over this shirah to Bnei Yisrael to accompany them and somewhat prevent them from this downfall. The idea of a shirah is an ordering of different components, even if these are very mixed up and different from eachother, a real shirah will ultimately bring a flow into these parts and order them into one whole working unit. A song also implies the concept of harmony with all the notes of a complex song or all the instruments of an orchestra, or voices of a choir joining to create this harmonious cooperation which results in a shirah. So what is the significance of a shirah to describe the future of Israel? Through such a harmonious fusion, we can draw parallels to the recognition that all elements of the universe fuse in carrying out Hashem’s will and in a wider sense, this is the ultimate goal of us as the Jewish nation… to be a living testimony to this connection of all these seemingly disparate parts of the world as coming from One single creator. We are witnesses to this and we therefore see how all the events described throughout Haazinu, with their ups and their downs are very appropriately fitted into this format, with Hashem conducting proceedings… the one origin of them all. Rabbi Gedaliah Schorr explains that since the nature of Haazinu is therefore to express recognition of this total harmony of Creation, it often mixes past, present, and the future for everything is being revealed in the shirah as a total reality, devoid of conflicts… future and past events therefore come together and not only fit together but clarify and compliment eachother. In fact, the way the shirah is written in the Torah gives us a visual demonstration of this concept, with two separate columns, each with halves of the possukim coming together as separate parts to form one whole song. Through the giving of this shirah, Hashem was therefore indicating to us that all parts of creation come together and respond harmoniously to the sins and good deeds of Hashem’s chosen people. We also see from this explanation, why the shirah of Haazinu was given together with the revelation that the Jewish nation will fall to widespread Avodah Zarah… Idol worshipping is the reverence of bodies other than Hashem and is therefore the polar opposite of belief in Hashem as the source and Oneness of the world. Whereas belief in Hashem brings all parts into this one harmonious shirah whereby all the components of the world work in conjunction with eachother from a single origin, Avodah Zarah is the ultimate breaking down of the world into disparate parts and focusing on the individual goods themselves… reflected by the many different gods possessed by the nations who bow to the practice of idolatry. Throughout the book of Devarim we are reminded on countless occasions not to fall victim to the sin of Avodah Zarah and to destroy the Canaanite nations and their idols… now we see why Avodah Zarah was such a grave sin, one which is described as disgusting to Hashem and one which requires such frequent warning to avoid… it is the breakdown of the harmony of Creation itself and therefore the denial of the Oneness and existence of Hashem. When a society is devoid of fear of Hashem there is no end to the immorality and cruelty which can emulate from that society, as seen throughout history. We as Hashem’s chosen people must, however, be a light onto the nations and always act in accordance to the Torah’s pure values, we must chose the correct path and act as our name implies, ‘ישרון/Yeshurun’, ‘ישר/straight’. Although the taiva for Avodah Zarah, Baruch Hashem, doesn’t exist to the same extent in our generation, we still need to heed the words of Haazinu and avoid following the practices of the goyim which are devoid of any emes, whereby any appearance of ethics or morality is either a corrupted or very filtered down version of what we find in the Torah. By working together in harmony we can bring the Moshiach speedily in our days… the conductor is ready… are you?
I hope everyone has a Shana Tova! K’siva v’chasima tova! Shabbat Shalom and chatzlacha rabba for the week ahead.
Daniel Sandground, (student at Ohr Somayach Yeshivah, Jerusalem)