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Parshat Ha’azinu 5775: Hashem’s Covenant With Am Yisrael — Are We Living Up to Our Obligations and Responsibilities?
by Moshe Burt
Parshat Ha’azinu begins with Moshe’s words:
“Ha’azinu HaShemayim V’adabeirah…”
“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and may the earth hear the words of my mouth.” (Artscroll Chumash, Sefer Devarim, Perek 32, posuk 1, pages 1100-1101)
Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch z’l, in the Hirsch Chumash (Sefer Devarim, Perek 32, posuk 1, pages 742-743) renders Moshe’s statement “Ha’azinu HaShemayim V’adabeirah…” and comments:
“Incline your ear, O Heaven, I would speak, And let the earth hear the words of my mouth.”
“V’adabeirah — I wish to speak, I have something to say. This is the request addressed to heaven. Moshe is willing to speak only after heaven [perhaps euphemistically meaning Hashem?, although the "h" of heaven is not capitalized -- MB] has inclined its ear to listen to his words.”
Ha’azinu: This is appointment of the heaven and earth as witnesses and guarantors of Hashem’s Covenant with Israel and of what will be said regarding Israel’s future.
Ha’azin is to be distinguished from Shema. Ha’azin means to incline one’s ear; the Ma’azin [the one asked to incline -- MB] turns to the speaker in order to listen to his words. By contrast, one can hear (L’shmo’ah) without wishing to do so.
Heaven and earth are called upon to represent Hashem’s Covenant, and this representation is carried out primarily by Heaven, and only indirectly by
the earth. Heaven is active; the earth is essentially passive, because all of the blessing and curse in the physical development of the earth… results from the cosmic changes that occur outside the earth, and these are included in the concept of HaShemayim [Heaven].
In the service of the purposes of Hashem’s rule, heaven is active, dispensing its gifts, whereas the earth is essentially passive, a receiver.
Shem Mishmuel describes Ha’azinu as;
A poem which Moshe Rabbeinu recited to Klal Yisrael… It discusses the uniqueness of Klal Yisrael, their future, how they should conduct themselves, how they will stray, and how Hashem will treat them mercifully. (Shem Mishmuel, Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein, Parsha Ha’azinu, pge 433)
Rabbi Artscroll (Artscroll Stone Chumash, Commentary on Sefer Devarim, Perek 32, p’sukim 7-9) cites S’forno recalling from history that Hashem created the world so that all of the nations would join together in achieving Hashem’s goal of righteousness. But when they failed, He chose B’nai Yisrael as the paradigm of that goal. Hashem gave them a Land where they could serve Him according to Torah’s laws with simcha, success and prosperity. But when the B’nai Yisrael rebelled, forgot and forsook Hashem for other counsel and avodah zora, they deserved destruction. But to avoid Chillul Hashem — desecration of His Name, Hashem, in His mercy, only exiled them in order that they be redeemed in times of Moshiach and the Ge’ula Shlaima.
Tehillim Psalm 81 expresses clearly the point of Hashem’s mercy where B’nai Yisrael rebelled, forgot and strayed from Hashem and Torah (Artscroll Nusach S’fard siddur, page 175):
“I am Hashem, your G’d, who elevated you from the land of Mitzrayim, open wide your mouth and I will fill it. But My people did not heed My voice and Israel did not desire Me. So I let them follow their heart’s fantasies, they follow their own counsels. If only My people would heed Me, if Israel would walk in My ways. In an instant, I would subdue their foes, and against their tormentors turn My hand…. He would feed him with the cream of wheat, and with honey from a rock sate you.”
The Ha’azinu poem asks (Sefer Devarim, Perek 32, posuk 30) regarding either Israel’s conquest over an enemy posssesing vastly superior forces, or Israel’s conquest by her enemies despite her possessing numerically superior forces:
“For how could one pursue a thousand, and two cause a myriad to flee?”
L’lmod U’Lamed, (L’lmod U’Lamed, Rabbi Mordechai Katz, Parsha Ha’azinu, p. 189-190) notes by this posuk, that:
Moshe reminds B’nai Yisrael how when they find themselves capable of defeating a vastly superior army, it was Hashem Who is responsible for their victory
L’lmod U’Lamed continues by describing contemporary instances where Hashem protected Israel, in the Six Day War; the paratrooper who parachuted into Yerushalayim and was hit by snipers and emerged uninjured — a bullet lodged in his Tefillin bag, and in the Yom Kippur War when a tank crew recited Tehillim and then confronted what it thought was enemy tanks and it’s cannon jammed when attempting to fire. Turned out that these “enemy tanks” were actually manned by the fellow Jews who had captured them in battle and who were now returning to their base.
And we now have stories emerging from this summer’s war with Hamas in Gaza, such as these which many or most subscribers undoubtedly have seen versions of:
In the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iron Dome Missile Defense system has been quite effective in preventing rockets from hitting targets in Israel, thus avoiding many civilian casualties. But it isn’t perfect. According to Israel Today, about 10% of the missiles predicted by the Iron Dome’s radar to hit civilian targets, for some reason, do not hit those targets. Many in Israel and believers around the world say that reason is the favor or hand of G’d.
Recent headlines have brought reports of missiles aimed by Hamas somehow changing direction in midair…. An Israeli commander described a miracle of God covering his troops with a cloud to protect them. He calls them “clouds of glory,” reminiscent of the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that led the children of Israel through the desert with Moses in millennia past.
Another such miraculous story was reported by an Israeli News site and translated by Israel Today… An Iron Dome battery commander tells an amazing story of a Hamas missile that was thwarted by the hand of God from its trajectory toward likely civilian targets:
“A missile was fired from Gaza. Iron Dome precisely calculated [its trajectory]. We know where these missiles are going to land down to a radius of 200 meters. This particular missile was going to hit either the Azrieli Towers, the Kirya (Israel’s equivalent of the Pentagon) or [a central Tel Aviv railway station]. Hundreds could have died.”
The Azrieli Towers is a majestic set of three skyscrapers with Tel-Aviv’s largest shopping mall located at the base of the Towers. According to Tel-Aviv’s local city guide, the mall has a dizzying array of shops, complete with a play area for children. If the missile had hit there, the loss of innocent civilian life, including children, would have been staggering.
The Kirya Tower is Israel’s sixth tallest building, located next to the Azrieli Towers. It is primarily a government building, although approximately 11 floors of the 40-floor structure are allocated as civilian offices. Again, a missile headed toward it put hundreds of civilian lives at risk.
The Tel Aviv HaShalom Railway Station is likely the other possible target as it is connected to the Azrieli shopping mall by a bridge. It is one of Israel’s busiest railway stations.
Had the Hamas missile hit any one of these targets, which are all very close to each other, the civilian casualties could have been devastating. On that day…, the Iron Dome defense system failed to stop the missile. Devastation appeared imminent.
“We fired the first [interceptor]. It missed. Second [interceptor]. It missed. This is very rare. I was in shock. At this point we had just four seconds until the missile lands. We had already notified emergency services to converge on the target location and had warned of a mass-casualty incident.”
That is the point at which everything changed, and reportedly G’d intervened. Certain destruction was averted. The Iron Dome battery commander continues:
“Suddenly, Iron Dome (which calculates wind speeds, among other things) shows a major wind coming from the east, a strong wind that … sends the missile into the sea. We were all stunned. I stood up and shouted, ‘There is a G’d!’
“I witnessed this miracle with my own eyes. It was not told or reported to me. I saw the hand of G’d send that missile into the sea.”
But, how far we have fallen, how much the B’nai Yisrael has rebelled such that its governmental leaders, and in turn, its military have seemed handcuffed and indecisive, in the Lebanon conflict, as well as in the Gaza battles of 2008, 2012, and this summer’s 50 day operation, the sending soldiers against armed terrorists in Flotillas with paint guns, seemingly equivocal and incapable of decisively defeating a lesser foe?
Even in our equivocation, indecisiveness and lack of emunah in Hashem, He still protects us with His Ananei HaKavod (His Clouds of Glory) as the above stories from the Gaza War tell us in black and white?. Why can’t the Israeli governing powers-to-be take heart, act Jewish, rather than attributing fighting a war totally to the “prowess of man”?
But now Am Yisrael, the Jewish people/nation, in Eretz Yisrael, and throughout the world are left in an even more vulnerable position than before with our adversaries taking heart from our equivocations and indecisiveness. Hamas still apparently has 30% to 40% of their rocket arsonel, will inevitably retool, perhaps with even longer-range and more precisely targeted rockets and who knows if or how many tunnels that the chayalim did not find and destroy. And sporadic rocket fire has been felt on the northern border with Syria, near Kuneitra — is that the next war front — with Hezbollah, with their tens of thousands of rockets, or Syria, or ISIL or all of the above? And ISIL has not limited its aims to the Middle East. Couple that with worsening conditions for Jews in Europe, as well as in the United States where “the knockout game” preys upon Jewish victims and we see that Israel’s
equivocations and indecisiveness promotes a media take and creates an atmosphere and mindset portraying Jews once again as weak, and “fair prey” to attack, threat and intimidation.
Can it be said that Israel may be seen as having lost those conflicts due to fear of eradicating the enemy, more concerned with collateral damage to enemy civilians than to decisively winning a war the way a war is supposed to be fought by eradicating enemy armies and assets — the Divine Mandate of a War for Torah? Israel’s leaders, with their utter lack of Torah grounding and near-complete lack of emunah in Hashem, that HE will fight for us and would subdue our foes, and with their distorted, perverted and total lack of understanding of what a Jew is and the true meaning of
thousands of years of Jewish history, have subverted our national sovereignty in OUR Land of Israel to the will of the “leader” of the so-called “super-power” avodah zora and to the morally corrupt and bankrupt “United Nations.”
What about the government of Israel’s seeming total preoccupation with abandoning and handing over Jewish Lands, including Jerusalem, to avowed Arab enemies implacably bent upon our destruction? Do we see all of this playing out as a result of the complacency and preoccupation of the masses, each individual, each sector with their own individual and group issues and matzavim while Israel’s governance plots, based on the air-direction of public opinion and on principles of divide and conquer, the eradication of all vestiges Torah and Yiddishkiet from its population?
We are, after nearly 2,000 years, a national sovereignty, in OUR OWN Land, Eretz Yisrael. We are no longer in cities, towns, nations dominated by other religions who would demand that we renounce the Almighty, as was the case of the Jews of Mainz where the Bishop demanded that R’ Amnon convert with the implied perilous threat to the Jews of Mainz should he refuse. As Jews in OUR LAND, we have the responsibility to to behave as Jews — both in words and actions — between our brethren and, in wars for our survival, toward adversaries who seek nothing less than our total annihilation.
Can it be said that Hashem on a collective level has denied us His favor? Has the national governance not been an evolvement of foresaking Hashem, our roots, our heritage for other counsels and avodah zora? What of the appointment of the heaven and earth as witnesses and guarantors of Hashem’s Covenant with Israel? We must all collectively ponder and internalize our responsibilites in living up to our obligations to this Covenant with Hashem on this Shabbos Shuva.
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai
Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!
Good Shabbos Teshuvah! L’Shana Tova — may all who read this be inscribed and sealed for a healthy, happy and prosperous 5775 and every year thereafter to at least 120!!
Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.