Haazinu, Ha'azinu, or Ha'Azinu (האזינו — Hebrew for "listen" when directed to more than one person, the first word in the parshah) is the 53rd weekly Torah portion (parshah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the 10th in the book of Deuteronomy. It constitutes Deuteronomy 32:1–52. Jews in the Diaspora read it on the Sabbath before Sukkot, generally in September or October.
The bulk of the parshah, the song of Deuteronomy 32:1–43, appears in the Torah scroll in a distinctive two-column format, reflecting the poetic structure of the text, where in each line, an opening colon is matched by a second, parallel thought unit.
Moses called on heaven and earth to hear his words, and asked that his speech be like rain and dew for the grass. (Deuteronomy 32:1–2.) Moses proclaimed that God was perfect in deed, just, faithful, true, and upright. (Deuteronomy 32:3–4.) God’s children were unworthy, a crooked generation that played God false, ill requiting the Creator. (Deuteronomy 32:5–6.) Moses exhorted the Israelites to remember that in ages past, God assigned the nations their homes and their due, but chose the Israelites as God’s own people. (Deuteronomy 32:7–9.) God found the Israelites in the desert, watched over them, guarded them, like an eagle who rouses his nestlings, gliding down to his young, God spread God’s wings and took Israel, bearing Israel along on God’s pinions, God alone guided Israel. (Deuteronomy 32:10–12.) God set the Israelites atop the highlands to feast on the yield of the earth and fed them honey, oil, curds, milk, lamb, wheat, and wine. (Deuteronomy 32:13–14.) So Israel grew fat and kicked and forsook God, incensed God with alien things, and sacrificed to demons and no-gods. (Deuteronomy 32:15–18.)
God saw, was vexed, and hid God’s countenance from them, to see how they would fare. (Deuteronomy 32:19–20.) For they were a treacherous breed, children with no loyalty, who incensed God with no-gods, vexed God with their idols; thus God would incense them with a no-folk and vex them with a nation of fools. (Deuteronomy 32:20–21.) A fire flared in God’s wrath and burned down to the base of the hills. (Deuteronomy 32:22.) God would sweep misfortunes on them, use God’s arrows on them — famine, plague, pestilence, and fanged beasts — and with the sword would deal death and terror to young and old alike. (Deuteronomy 32:23–25.)
God might have reduced them to nothing, made their memory cease among men, except for fear of the taunts of their enemies, who might misjudge and conclude that their own hand had prevailed and not God’s. (Deuteronomy 32:26–27.) For Israel’s enemies were a folk void of sense, lacking in discernment. (Deuteronomy 32:28.) Were they wise, they would think about this, and gain insight into their future, for they would recognize that one could not have routed a thousand unless God had sold them. (Deuteronomy 32:29–31.) They were like Sodom and Gomorrah and their wine was the venom of asps. (Deuteronomy 32:32–33.) God stored it away to be the basis for God’s vengeance and recompense when they should trip, for their day of disaster was near. (Deuteronomy 32:34–35.) God would vindicate God’s people and take revenge for God’s servants, when their might was gone. (Deuteronomy 32:36.) God would ask where the enemies’ gods were — they who ate the fat of their offerings and drank their libation wine — let them rise up to help! (Deuteronomy 32:37–38.) There was no god beside God, who dealt death and gave life, wounded and healed. (Deuteronomy 32:39.) God swore that when God would whet God’s flashing blade, and lay hand on judgment, God would wreak vengeance on God’s foes. (Deuteronomy 32:40–41.) God would make God’s arrows drunk with blood, as God’s sword devoured flesh, blood of the slain and the captive from the long-haired enemy chiefs. (Deuteronomy 32:42.) God would avenge the blood of God’s servants, wreak vengeance on God’s foes, and cleanse the land of God’s people. (Deuteronomy 32:43.)
Moses came, together with Joshua, and recited all this poem to the people. (Deuteronomy 32:44.) And when Moses finished reciting, he told them to take his warnings to heart and enjoin them upon their children, for it was not a trifling thing but their very life at stake. (Deuteronomy 32:45–47.) That day God told Moses to ascend Mount Nebo and view the land of Canaan, for he was to die on the mountain, as his brother Aaron had died on Mount Hor, for they both broke faith with God when they struck the rock to produce water in the wilderness of Zin, failing to uphold God’s sanctity among the Israelite people. (Deuteronomy 32:48–52.)
In inner-biblical interpretationEdit
Deuteronomy chapter 32Edit
Psalm 91 interprets the role of God as an eagle expressed in Deuteronomy 32:11. Psalm 91:4 explains, “He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings shall you take refuge,” and Psalm 91:5 explains, “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day.”
In rabbinic interpretationEdit
The Gemara instructs that when writing a Torah scroll, a scribe needs to write the song of Deuteronomy 32:1–43 in a special two-column form, with extra spaces. If a scribe writes the song as plain text, then the scroll is invalid. (Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 103b.)
Rabbi Samuel ben Nahman asked why Moses called upon both the heavens and the earth in Deuteronomy 32:1. Rabbi Samuel compared Moses to a general who held office in two provinces and was about to hold a feast. He needed to invite people from both provinces, so that neither would fell offended for having been overlooked. Moses was born on earth, but became great in heaven. (Deuteronomy Rabbah 10:4.) Rashi interpreted Moses to warn Israel that the heavens and earth would be witnesses in this matter. Rashi explained that Moses called upon heaven and earth to serve as witnesses in case Israel denied accepting the covenant, because Moses knew that he was mortal and would soon die, but heaven and earth will endure forever. Furthermore, if Israel acted meritoriously, then the witnesses would be able to reward them, as the earth would yield its produce and the heavens would give its dew. (Zechariah 8:12.) And if Israel acted sinfully, then the hand of the witnesses would be the first to inflict punishment (Deuteronomy 17:7), as God would close off heaven’s rain, and the soil would not yield its produce. (Deuteronomy 11:17.) (Rashi to Deuteronomy 32:1.)
Rav Judah and Rava inferred from Deuteronomy 32:2 the great value of rain. (Babylonian Talmud Taanit 7a.) Rava also inferred from the comparison in Deuteronomy 32:2 of Torah to both rain and dew that Torah can affect a worthy scholar as beneficially as dew, and an unworthy one like a crushing rainstorm. (Babylonian Talmud Taanit 7a.) Rashi interpreted Deuteronomy 32:2 to refer to Torah, which, like rain, provides life to the world. Rashi interpreted the request of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:2 for his speech to rain down “as the dew,” “as the rain,” to mean that it should come in small droplets. Rashi interpreted that Moses wanted to teach the children of Israel slowly, the knowledge "raining" down on the people in small portions, for if they were to be subject to all knowledge coming down at once, they would be overwhelmed and thus wiped out. (Rashi to Deuteronomy 32:2.)
Rabbi Abbahu cited Deuteronomy 32:3 to support the proposition of Mishnah Berakhot 7:1 that three who have eaten together publicly should say the Grace after Meals (Birkat Hamazon) together as well. In Deuteronomy 32:3, Moses says, “When I (who am one) proclaim the name of the Lord, you (in the plural, who are thus at least two more) ascribe greatness to our God.” Thus by using the plural to for “you,” Moses implies that at least three are present, and should ascribe greatness to God. (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 45a.)
Rabbi Jose found support in the words “ascribe greatness to our God” in Deuteronomy 32:3 for the proposition that when standing in the house of assembly saying, “Blessed is the Lord who is to be blessed,” people are to respond, “Blessed is the Lord who is to be blessed forever and ever.” Rabbi Jose also found support in those words for the proposition that Grace after Meals is said only when three are present; that one must say “Amen” after the one who says the blessing; that one must say, “Blessed is the Name of the Glory of His Kingdom forever and ever”; and that when people say, “May His great name be blessed,” one must answer, “Forever and ever and ever.” (Sifre 306:30.)
Rabbi Hanina bar Papa taught that to enjoy this world without reciting a blessing is tantamount to robbing God, as Proverbs 28:24 says, “Whoever robs his father or his mother and says, ‘It is no transgression,’ is the companion of a destroyer,” and Deuteronomy 32:6 says of God, “Is not He your father Who has gotten you?” (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 35b.)
A midrash interpreted the report of Deuteronomy 32:8 that God "fixed the boundaries of peoples in relation to Israel's number" (l'mispar b'nei Yisrael) to teach that before the days of Abraham, God dealt harshly with the world: The sins of Noah's generation resulted in the flood; the generation that built the Tower of Babel was dispersed throughout the globe, prompting the proliferation of languages; the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were answered with fire and brimstone. According to the midrash, when Abraham came into the world, God ceased the cataclysmic punishments and set the punishments of other peoples in relationship to Israel's presence in the world. This midrash conveys that the Israelites' presence somehow lessened God's anger, bringing greater stability to the world. The midrash teaches that Jews, then, have a unique ability and responsibility to bring peace and stability to the world. (myjewishlearing.com)
The Gemara read the word “Rock” in Deuteronomy 32:18 to refer to God, and the Gemara employed that interpretation with others to support Abba Benjamin’s assertion that when two people enter a synagogue to pray, and one of them finishes first and leaves without waiting for the other, God disregards the prayer of the one who left. (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 5b.)
The Gemara read the word reshef (“fiery bolt”) in Deuteronomy 32:24 to refer to demons, and the Gemara employed that interpretation with others to support Rabbi Isaac’s assertion that reciting the Shema in bed keeps demons away. (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 5a.)
Rav Hisda taught that one walking in a dirty alleyway should not recite the Shema, and one reciting the Shema who comes upon a dirty alleyway should stop reciting. Of one who would not stop reciting, Rav Adda bar Ahavah quoted Numbers 15:31 to say: “he has despised the word of the Lord.” And of one who does stop reciting, Rabbi Abbahu taught that Deuteronomy 32:47 says: “through this word you shall prolong your days.” (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 24b.)
The Gemara implied that the sin of Moses in striking the rock at Meribah compared favorably to the sin of David. The Gemara reported that Moses and David were two good leaders of Israel. Moses begged God that his sin be recorded, as it is in Numbers 20:12, 20:23–24, and 27:13–14, and Deuteronomy 32:51. David, however, begged that his sin be blotted out, as Psalm 32:1 says, “Happy is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is pardoned.” The Gemara compared the cases of Moses and David to the cases of two women whom the court sentenced to be lashed. One had committed an indecent act, while the other had eaten unripe figs of the seventh year in violation of Leviticus 25:6. The woman who had eaten unripe figs begged the court to make known for what offense she was being flogged, lest people say that she was being punished for the same sin as the other woman. The court thus made known her sin, and the Torah repeatedly records the sin of Moses. (Babylonian Talmud Yoma 86b.)
- Not to drink wine of libation to idolatry (Deuteronomy 32:38.)
(Maimonides. Mishneh Torah, Negative Commandment 194. Cairo, Egypt, 1170–1180. Reprinted in Maimonides. The Commandments: Sefer Ha-Mitzvoth of Maimonides. Translated by Charles B. Chavel, 2:189–91. London: Soncino Press, 1967. ISBN 0-900689-71-4.)
According to Sefer ha-Chinuch, however, there are no commandments in the parshah. (Sefer HaHinnuch: The Book of [Mitzvah] Education. Translated by Charles Wengrov, 5:443. Jerusalem: Feldheim Pub., 1988. ISBN 0-87306-497-6.)
And according to others, the parshah contains a commandment to listen, hear, and learn one's ancestral history, as Deuteronomy 32:7–9 instructs one to "ask your father and he will tell you."
The haftarah for the parshah is the song of David, 2 Samuel 22:1–51. Both the parshah and the haftarah set out the song of a great leader. Both the parshah (in Deuteronomy 32:4 and 18) and the haftarah (in 2 Samuel 22:1 and 2) refer to God as a Rock.
In the liturgyEdit
Moses’ characterization of God as “the Rock” in Deuteronomy 32:4 is reflected in Psalm 95:1, which is in turn the first of the six Psalms recited at the beginning of the Kabbalat Shabbat prayer service, as well as in Psalm 92:16, which is recited later in the Kabbalat Shabbat service after the Lekhah Dodi liturgical poem. (Reuven Hammer. Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, 15, 23. New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, 2003. ISBN 0-916219-20-8.)
Many Jews recite the words, “as an eagle that stirs up her nest, hovers over her young,” from Deuteronomy 32:11 as part of the declaration of intent before donning the tallit. (Menachem Davis. The Schottenstein Edition Siddur for Weekdays with an Interlinear Translation, 5. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2002. ISBN 1-57819-686-8.)
The parshah has parallels or is discussed in these sources:
- Numbers 20:10–13; 27:12–14.
- Deuteronomy 3:26–27; 4:26; 30:19; 31:28.
- 2 Samuel 22:3; 22:15; 22:31.
- Isaiah 50:10-11.
- Psalm 50:4–6; 91; 95:1 (God as “the Rock”).
- Dead Sea scrolls 4QDeutj, 4QDeutq
- Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 4:8:44, 47. Circa 93–94. Reprinted in, e.g., The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, New Updated Edition. Translated by William Whiston, 123–25. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub., 1987. ISBN 0-913573-86-8.
- Tosefta Shabbat 8:24–25; Sotah 4:8. Land of Israel, circa 300 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew, with a New Introduction. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 1:385, 848. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub., 2002. ISBN 1-56563-642-2.
- Sifre to Deuteronomy 306:1–341:1. Land of Israel, circa 250–350 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Sifre to Deuteronomy: An Analytical Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 2:295–397. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987. ISBN 1-55540-145-7.
- Jerusalem Talmud: Berakhot 72b, 84b; Peah 5a, 7b, 48b; Kilayim 82a; Sheviit 5b; Maaser Sheni 49b. Land of Israel, circa 400 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Yerushalmi. Edited by Chaim Malinowitz, Yisroel Simcha Schorr, and Mordechai Marcus, vols. 2–3, 5–6a, 10. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2006–2009.
- Genesis Rabbah 1:14; 5:5; 12:1; 13:14; 15:7; 22:2; 44:21; 53:15; 65:15; 68:12; 96:5. Land of Israel, 5th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
- Leviticus Rabbah 2:10; 4:1; 18:5; 22:8; 23:5, 12. Land of Israel, 5th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Leviticus. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
- Babylonian Talmud: Berakhot 5a–b, 45a, 56b; Shabbat 103b; Pesachim 111b; Yoma 37a; Taanit 7a, 11a; Chagigah 12b; Yevamot 63b; Ketubot 8b, 111b; Baba Kama 50a, 60b; Bava Batra 25a; Sanhedrin 91b, 97a; Avodah Zarah 29b. Babylonia, 6th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr, Chaim Malinowitz, and Mordechai Marcus, 72 vols. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2006.
- Deuteronomy Rabbah 1:5; 3:5; 5:4; 8:2; 10:1–4; 11:5, 10. Land of Israel, 9th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Deuteronomy. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
- Exodus Rabbah 1:12; 3:8; 5:12, 14; 13:2; 15:12, 16; 21:3; 23:2, 8; 24:1; 29:7; 30:1, 11, 21; 32:7; 42:1; 51:7. 10th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Exodus. Translated by S. M. Lehrman. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
- Rashi. Commentary. Deuteronomy 32. Troyes, France, late 11th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Rashi. The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated. Translated and annotated by Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg, 5:329–69. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1997. ISBN 0-89906-030-7.
- Judah Halevi. Kuzari. 2:16; 3:11; 4:3. Toledo, Spain, 1130–1140. Reprinted in, e.g., Jehuda Halevi. Kuzari: An Argument for the Faith of Israel. Intro. by Henry Slonimsky, 92, 149, 201. New York: Schocken, 1964. ISBN 0-8052-0075-4.
- Numbers Rabbah 2:6; 8:4; 9:1, 7, 11, 14, 49; 10:2; 12:11; 13:14; 14:12; 16:5, 24; 17:5; 20:1, 19, 21. 12th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Numbers. Translated by Judah J. Slotki. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
- Esther Rabbah 1:6; 5:1; 7:13.
- Song of Songs Rabbah 1:11; 8:7.
- Ruth Rabbah: prologue 3, 4.
- Lamentations Rabbah: prologue 24, 25, 34; 1:33, 55; 2:4.
- Ecclesiastes Rabbah 2:15; 3:13, 17, 19; 9:5
- Zohar 1:6a, 22b, 26a, 53a, 87b, 96b, 138b, 139b, 143b, 160a, 161b, 163a, 164a, 177a, 189b, 192a; 2:5b, 26b, 64a, 64b, 80b, 83b, 86a, 95b, 96a, 108b, 125a, 144a, 155b, 157a, 162b, 210a; 3:60b, 78b, 126a, 210b, 263a, 268a, 286a–299b. Spain, late 13th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., The Zohar. Translated by Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon. 5 vols. London: Soncino Press, 1934.
- Samson Raphael Hirsch. Horeb: A Philosophy of Jewish Laws and Observances. Translated by Isidore Grunfeld, 444–45. London: Soncino Press, 1962. Reprinted 2002 ISBN 0-900689-40-4. Originally published as Horeb, Versuche über Jissroel’s Pflichten in der Zerstreuung. Germany, 1837.
- Emily Dickinson. Poem 112 (Where bells no more affright the morn —). Circa 1859. Poem 168 (If the foolish, call them "flowers" —). Circa 1860. Poem 597 (It always felt to me — a wrong). Circa 1862. In The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Edited by Thomas H. Johnson, 53, 79–80, 293–94. New York: Little, Brown & Co., 1960. ISBN 0-316-18414-4.
- Martin Buber. On the Bible: Eighteen studies, 80–92. New York: Schocken Books, 1968.
- Nahama Leibowitz. Studies in Devarim: Deuteronomy, 327–69. Jerusalem: World Zionist Org.: 1980. ISBN 0-686-76264-9.
- Elliot N. Dorff. “A Jewish Approach to End-Stage Medical Care.” New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 1990. YD 339:1.1990b. Reprinted in Responsa: 1980–1990: The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement. Edited by David J. Fine, 519, 531–32, 564. New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2005. ISBN 0-916219-27-5. (implications of God’s ownership of the universe on the duty to maintain life and health).
- Avram Israel Reisner. “Joint Aliyot.” New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 1992. OH 136.1992. Reprinted in Responsa: 1991–2000: The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement. Edited by Kassel Abelson and David J. Fine, 21, 23–24. New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2002. ISBN 0-916219-19-4. (implications of the command to “exalt our God” for joint or single blessings).
- Jeffrey H. Tigay. The JPS Torah Commentary: Deuteronomy: The Traditional Hebrew Text with the New JPS Translation, 298–317, 508–18. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996. ISBN 0-8276-0330-4.
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