Friday, September 25, 2009

Parshat Ha'azinu - פרשת העזינו

I have two Divrei Torah this week; one is my own and one is adapted from R' Ari Kahn of Aish Hatorah.


העזינו השמים ואדרבה ותשמע הארץ אמרי פי - Listen, o' heavens, and I will speak; and the earth shall hear the words of my mouth.

The words of the pasuk above are Moshe Rabbeinu's words as he stood before Bnei Yisrael not long before his passing. Moshe calls on the heavens and the earth to heed his words; not to testify but simply to take note. It seems a rather strange request - what was his intention?

If we look closely at the wording of the pasuk, we may notice that Moshe uses different commands to the heaven and the earth. With regards to the heavens, Moshe uses the word העזינו, (listen,) and when dealing with the earth, he uses the word ותשמע(and hear).

As well as instructing the heaven and earth to listen and hear, two different modes of receiving his words, Moshe also employs two differing types of communication; he says "ואדרבה" (and I will speak), to the heavens but says that the earth should take note of אמרי פי (the words of my mouth).

I've mentioned a few times in my Divrei Torah that there's a nuanced difference to be understood when the Torah elects to use one of the words "Hear" and "Listen" over the other. In this case, Moshe speaks to heaven and earth and tells the earth, the lower of the two, to hear him. Hearing, as I've mentioned before, is relevant to us, as we who do not understand this world have to try and piece together the truth from what is happening around us. When one hears something, he takes in a word at a time until the full sentence is understood. So Moshe uses the word for hearing to tell the earth (and by way of reference, all that is on it) to stick to this particular task.

But what of the heavens? Why should Moshe tell the heavens "העזינו" - to listen? What is implied here? To answer this, we have to look at the word he uses to describe his own speech, "ואדרבה". The root of this word is דבר, "davar," which also means a "thing" in Hebrew. There is a vital connection here. This kind of speech can be compared to a thing, in that it is complete. Moshe mentions the simpleאמרי פי, "the words of my mouth," to the lower sphere. This kind of expression is incomplete, but when speaking to the celestial sphere, Moshe is able to employ more complete terminolgy, as we learn that the higher worlds are more "in sync" with Hashem.

At the beginning of this week's Parsha, Parshat Ha'azinu, Moshe breaks into song. R' Ari Kahn notes that this moment in Sefer D'varim seems an odd time for Moshe to start singing. Moshe's contemporaries, the generation that left Egypt, have mostly died in the desert and Moshe too is to soon pass away. Although Moshe has famously sung before in the Torah, (namely Az Yashir after safely crossing the Red Sea,) why should he sing now, unprompted?

R' Kahn explains Moshe's greatness by brining an example from the Gemara:

"Our rabbis taught: 'When the wicked Nebuchadnezzar threw Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah into the fiery furnace, the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Ezekiel: 'Go and resurrect the dead in the plain of Dura.' This being done, the bones came and smote the wicked man upon his face. 'What kind of bones are these!' he exclaimed. They [his courtiers] answered him, 'Their companion is resurrecting the dead in the plain of Dura.' Thereupon he broke into utterance, 'How great are His signs, and how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation!'" Rabbi Isaac said: "May molten gold be poured into the mouth of that wicked man [Nebuchadnezzar]! Had not an angel come and struck him upon his mouth he would have eclipsed all the songs and praises uttered by David in the Book of Psalms.' "
(Sanhedrin 92b)

At the moment that king Nebuchadnezzar wanted to praise Hashem, Rabbi Isaac stoppped him. Nebuchadnezzar was stunned by this incredible moment and wanted to praise God, but nevertheless Rabbi Isaac issued a stinging statement and barred him from doing so. Why was this?

The Kotzker Rebbe understood the reason for Rav Isaac's actions and summarised them thus:
"You wish to sing praise while the crown is on your head, I would like to hear how you sing after being slapped in the face. (Emet miKotzk Tizmach pg. 37)"

Many of us have experienced an incident in our lives where we are dazzled for a moment. We wish to sing and praise God, but although this is certainly laudable we should take the time to ask ourselves, would we be as ready to praise God after experiencing pain? This is Moshe's great strength - even when he is about to die, he realises that it is appropriate to give praise to his creator.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom u'mevorach from Jerusalem!

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