Ha'atzinu – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis
With Yom Kippur behind us, Sukkot ahead and the end of the Torah being read on Simchat Torah we are coming to what Rabbi Collick z”l sometimes described as the end of “Autumn Manoeuvres”.
Now, at the penultimate Sedra of the Torah, there is a break in the direct recitation of one Sedra after another. We will read V’zot Haberachah on Simchat Torah since next week is Shabbat Chol Ha Moed Sukkot.
Haazinu is a song but unlike other songs in the Tanach it is not a response of rejoicing after a joyous event. The only other song in the Torah is Shir Hayam at the crossing of the Red Sea, led by Moses sister, Miriam. Other Shirim in the Tanach are each linked to a historical event but here we have a song “on demand” by God.. Moses is instructed to compose it.
זְכֹר֙ יְמ֣וֹת עוֹלָ֔ם בִּ֖ינוּ שְׁנ֣וֹת דֹּֽר וָדֹ֑ר
Remember the days of old; reflect upon the years of the generations
It was necessary to remind the people of not just what had been promised but all of the mistakes that had been made and would be made. A popular song of today is “Be Happy, Don’t Worry”. It can be paraphrased as
The past is no longer, the future has not yet occurred, and the present is but the twinkling of an eye, so what is there to worry about
Rabbi Soloveitchik, zt', was strongly opposed to this philosophy of life. In Judaism, he said, the past, present and future all coalesce.
Songs are important. The tunes which we hear in the synagogue services and at home stay with us. It is not just our fathers but also our mothers who implant them. Those who have, for many reasons, been distanced from their Jewish heritage have them deep, sometimes buried, in their memories.
In the past week with the Vidui and the Al Chet prayers we acknowledged that we are less than perfect and all this was foreseen in the Shir Haazinu
How do we view the Torah whose reading we will soon resume from the beginning?
I came across something in a book recording the life and works of Rashi. This had been lifted from a commentator on the works of La Fontaine, the French writer of fables. It could be applied to a view of the Torah by describing it as:
The milk of our early years
The bread of the adult
And the last meal of the old