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Ha'azinu – A thought for the week by Mike Lewis

In this, the penultimate Parasha of the year, we hear the voice of Moses; it is Shira Ha’azinu.

It is described as a poem or as a song, it marks the end of the time in the wilderness; in the same way that Shira Hayam marked the end of the time in Egypt. The poetry is intense.

Give ear O heavens, let me speak,
Let the earth hear the words I utter,
May my discourse come down as rain.

We are being reminded not just of our history but our fate. We are reminded that we will fail but that God and Israel will be reconciled. We will return. The Parasha ends with Moses being called to depart and go up to Mount Nebo where he will die. He is mortal.

But why is it in the form of a song? We are warned that we will stray and will need to find a way back to God. We too are mortal.  Songs and tunes of our childhood remain deep in our memories. Life and the course of events are unpredictable. It is easy to forget those parts of practice handed down by our parents and grandparents. Tunes and the prayers become lost; but a remnant always remains.  It may just be Kaddish or a flicker of recognition of the Kol Nidre prayer, but it is always there.

There is a story told of very young Jewish children who, having been hidden with gentile families during the Shoah, were gathered together after the war. They were asked what they remembered of their families, but they could not remember.  One of the volunteers started to sing” Rhozinkes mit Mandelen”, the famous lullaby and slowly all the children joined in. The song, like the discourse in Shir Ha’azinu, had come down like rain to awaken the children.

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