Parshat Ha’azinu

October 11th, 2019

In Parshat Ha’azinu Moshe puts his final words into song and the poetic short lyrical verses, give our sages leeway for many interpretations, with room for each of us, as well, to read it and understand the implied or hidden messages, in our own way. The Parsha opens

“Listen, the heavens, and I will speak; Hear, the earth, the words of my mouth.
   Let my teaching fall like rain, my words descend like dew;

like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.”

In the poetical text that follows, the message that Moshe hints is that Bnei Yisrael should not get too comfortable in their new surroundings and think that everything is their own doing, but to remember to keep their alliance with Hashem and the Torah. Possibly this is why Moshe uses the analogy of the rain, which is so necessary even these days, so many generations later, to provide sustenance. What is fascinating to see how through the generations, our sages have interpreted the analogies of the rain and the dew.

The Ibn Ezra sees these words as an introduction to Moshe’s warnings here. Moshe is saying let my words sink in like the rain and the dew moisten the soil and feed the crops with the moisture they need grow. The Kli Yakar takes this further and differentiates between those who were listening to Moshe, the wise and the simple folk. The wise, who were more aware of the insinuations, would understand the words as a serious warning, just as the rain can fall hard on you when you have no choice but to go out. Interestingly the word used by Moshe for rain is not the usual “geshem” but “matar,” and there are those who suggest that “matar” is the word used for heavy rain, not the gentle drizzly stuff that you find so often in England. Anyway, back to the Kli Yakar, he suggests that the dew is something gentle and more associated with the ground, thus the simpler folk, who would listen but not really grasp the seriousness of these warnings. In fact, it would the responsibility of the wise, who would be the teachers and sages, to guide the simpler folk, as is the job of our teachers and Rabbis today.

Rashi on the other hand, suggests that Moshe is referring to the whole of the Torah, and the analogy is that just as there are different elements which sustain us in different ways, the rain, the dew and the wind, so the Torah has so many levels of meaning. Similarly, the rain, the dew and the wind, are an essential part of our existence, and create new growth in every new season and yearly cycle. The Netziv takes this further and compares the richness of the Torah to the rain which comes from the heavens above. He marvels at the wealth of insight gathered by the learned anew with each generation, which comes with spiritual inspiration from above. The dew on the other hand are the small delicacies of understanding of the Torah, which are just as important and can be understood by everyone.

Many more of our sages take on the challenge. The Chazkuni who notes the slow and sometimes invisible effect of the rain and the dew, the Or HaChaim Hakadosh who sees the rain as the written Torah and the dew and the Oral Torah which complements it, and I am sure many of you can add your own ideas.

Songs and melodies are an essential part of our lives, I had Shana Tova greetings from my 95 year old cousin, Leo Winn, who miraculously survived the holocaust and we visited last year in Florida on our way home from South America. I had mislaid my tefillin in Argentina and got in contact with the Chabad Rabbi in Jupiter Florida to loan me a pair till I got home, which he did and in chatting I told him of my cousin. The Chabad Rabbi now visits my cousin and they sing tunes together which Leo remembers from his childhood in Lodz. The Chabad Rabbi also told me of his Chanuka innovation, where he hires a helicopter and drops chocolate money over the local park to the joy of all the children, religious and non-religious alike and gets them all involved in the community.