ARE YOU LISTENING? – “Haazinu”Deut.32 – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon
Two songs are credited to Moses. First is the Song of the Sea, celebrating the Exodus from Egypt. The other one is this week’s reading, Moses’ farewell song and charge to his people before he takes his final climb up Mt. Nebo. A total contrast. The first song is addressed to G-d and dramatizes the people’s faith and joy in the miraculous deliverance they just experienced. “Israel saw Egypt dead on the sea shore, and the people believed in G-d and in Moses His servant!” The second song, here in Deuteronomy, is addressed to the universe, and recounts G-d’s faithfulness and Israel’s folly.
In a line that still forms part of every traditional Jewish funeral, Moses stresses his message: “Ha-tzur tamim po-o-lo,” he says: “The Rock, His work is perfect.” Then he asks: “Is corruption His? No, his children have the blemish that raised a crooked and perverse generation!” Yet, he reminds us of G-d’s care for Israel: “Ask you father and he will tell you; your elders will say it to you… Jacob is G-d’s inheritance. He found him in a desert land, an empty howling waste… He kept them as the apple of His eye.” And then Moses goes into what we might call a prediction of Jewish history: “Jeshurun (another name for Israel) got fat and kicked.. He deserted G-d who created him.” Turning to his people, the dying leader shouts out his message: “You forgot the G-d who begot you!” Now Moses speaks in G-d’s name: “I will hide My face from them.. They provoked Me with a non-god; I will provoke them with a non-nation!” A non-nation – not only evil empires like Babylonia or Rome or Germany, but NGOs. The Cossacks, the KKK, Hamas.
As Moses finishes his message, he urges us to take our strength from our own heritage, and rely on our own faith. He is also telling us to believe in ourselves. The last verse addresses the world at large: “Nations, acclaim G-d’s people, for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and take vengeance on His foes; and He will cleanse His people’s land.”
Today, as our people work to cleanse the land of Israel, we can hope to join them in taking courage from Moses’stirring song.