WRITE THIS SONG – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

          Chapters 31 and 32 of Deuteronomy offer some great messages.  Moses, at age 120, and his intended successor Joshua are told to “write this song and place it in the mouths of the people.”  They get this order in chapter 31, when Moses finishes one of his farewell speeches to the people, and charges Joshua to be strong and courageous in leading them.  Up to this point, no one is singing.  So what song should Moses write?

          The commentators differ in their explanations.  Ibn Ezra takes this commandment as referring to the entire Torah, which each Jew should write a copy of once in his life, or engage a scribe to write it.  This interpretation gives us the tradition of carrying out this mitzvah to honor a special event in our family or community.

Nachmanides, the Ramban, identifies the song as Haazinu which is the text of the next chapter, and contains some of our most classic lyrics.  Opening with exaltation:

Listen, you heavens, and I will speak,

and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.

My doctrine will drop as the rain,

My speech will distill as the dew …

For I will proclaim the name of the Lord;

Ascribe greatness to our G-d.

The Rock, His way is perfect, for all His ways are justice.

A G-d of faithfulness … just and right is He.

The poem goes on to detail how the people Israel received Divine love and care.  Then how they made mistakes:

  Jeshurun got fat and kicked … and he forsook G-d who made him,

     And contemned the Rock of his salvation.

As if using past experience to predict his people’s future, Moses soon launches into the lines that are arguably the most accurate forecast of what goes on today:

          They angered Me with a non-god, provoking Me with their vanities;

And I will anger them with a non-nation, provoking them with a vile people.

Think about it.  When a majority of world Jewry rejects religion, when groups of Jews in Israel and elsewhere sample cults from Zen to Scientology, and when they view any observant Jews as extremists, should we be surprised that a “non-nation” can threaten Israel’s existence?  As has been amply proven, there never was a nation of Palestine, and those who now call themselves “Palestinians” are the same Arabs who live in Jordan and surrounding countries. Yet they harass Israel while a hostile world looks on.

If Israel and world Jewry “returned to G-d,” would that situation change?  We don’t know.   But here is what the song of Moses says:

If only they were wise, they would understand this,

they would discern their latter end…. 

For the Lord will judge His people, and have compassion for His servants…. 

Sing aloud, you nations, about His people, for He will avenge their blood, 

and render vengeance to His enemies, 

and He will make expiation for the land of His people.



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