Parshat Ha’azinu 5783: Discerning Strive from Strife and Fulfilling Our Obligations to Hashem’s Covenant

Shalom Friends;

Our Parshat HaShavua Ha’azinu is being sponsored by Eliyahu and Shuli Gherman of Ramat Beit Shemesh to commemorate Eliyahu’s Bar Mitzvah Parsha and dedicated for Refuah Shleima for the cholim of Am Yisrael and for Hatslucha for the Gherman family in Eretz Yisrael.. To the Gherman family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Ha’azinu 5783: Discerning Strive from Strife and Fulfilling Our Obligations to Hashem’s Covenant

by Moshe Burt

This year Parshat Ha’azinu falls out on the Shabbos Before Succot.

We begin with an excerpt from Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s Parsha Summary for Parshat Ha’azinu in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim (page 351):

Beckoning the heavens and the earth to hear his words, Moshe raises his voice in song as he shares Shirat Ha’azinu, the song recorded in Parshat Ha’azinu, with the Jews on the last day of his life. Over the course of this song, designed to serve as eternal testimony to the nation, Moshe recalls Hashem’s kindnesses to the people and predicts their future sins, punishment and eventual redemption. In spite of national failure, suffering and exile, Moshe proclaims, the bond between Am Yisrael and Hashem will never be severed.

We cite Rav Goldin’s context which seems to indicate that the purpose of Shirat Ha’azinu was to impact upon man’s heart, mind and thought processes (ibid., page 358):

The first section of Shirat Ha’azinu, Moshe’s dramatic song… summarized the past kindnesses bestowed by Hashem upon the nation. After a short passage extolling Hashem, [Moshe is] chastising the nation for their failures, and inviting them to consider the lessons of the past…

It is in this regard that we look at several posukim and commentaries (Sefer Devarim, Perek 32, posukim 7 and 15-19 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash, pages 1101-1105) which seem ever pertinent in our times:

“Remember the days of yore, understand the years of generation after generation. Ask your father and he will relate it to you, and your elders and they will tell you.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 32, posuk 7)

Artscroll Stone Chumash Commentary: “The days of yore… generation after generation.” At the core of much human error is a lack of perspective. Most people refuse to believe that the past is relevant to them, and they suffer this foolish myopia [lack of foresight or discernment, obtuseness. narrow-mindedness; intolerance.] Moshe pleads with Israel to take counsel with those who have experience and perspective. Generation after generation were brought down for their sins of immorality, greed or aggression. Does Israel think it will be different?

“Yeshurun became fat and kicked. You became fat, you became thick, you became corpulent [large or bulky of body; portly; stout; fat.] — and it deserted Hashem its Maker, and was contemptuous of the Rock of its salvation.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 32, posuk 15)

“They would provoke His jealousy with strangers; they would anger Him with abonimations.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 32, posuk 16)

“They would slaughter to demons without power, gods who they knew not, newcomers recently arrived, whom your ancestors did not dread.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 32, posuk 17)

“You ignored the Rock Who gave birth to you, and forgot Hashem Who brought you forth.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 32, posuk 18)

“Hashem will see and be provoked by the anger of His sons and daughters.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 32, posuk 19)

Artscroll Stone Chumash Commentary (ibid, posukim 15-18): Prosperity brings dissolution. Good fortune is a serious challenge to a nation’s moral standing, for people are prone to indulge their lusts when they have the resources to do so. Israel failed the test.

Artscroll Stone Chumash Commentary (ibid, posuk 15): Having come into the Land and enjoyed Hashem’s loving gifts, Israel was at the height of its calling — but too much prosperity led to its downfall. Even Yeshurun is in danger if it succumbs to its desires. (Artscroll Stone Chumash citing Rav Hirsch)

When the nation’s elite pursued physical pleasures — growing “fat, thick and corpulent — the outcome was that the ordinary folk deserted Hashem and showed Him contempt. For such is human nature: When the great stray a little bit, the commoners fall into steep decline. (Artscroll Stone Chumash citing Sforno)

Artscroll Stone Chumash Commentary (ibid, posukim 16-17) Israel will anger Hashem by worshiping strange gods and performing such acts as sodomy and idolatry, which Hashem finds abominable. They will bring offerings to powerless demons, to newly invented gods that their ancestors never knew or scorned as hoaxes.

Artscroll Stone Chumash Commentary (ibid, posuk 19): Hashem’s wrath. Israel’s provocations will not go unrequited. If the people use Hashem’s blessings to anger Him, He will remove the blessings and cast them [Israel[ to the mercies of their enemies.

In our times, the tendencies of the contemporary “elites,” i.e. governmental authorities, the police, the judicial system seem to take the shape of fake and false “morality,” mercy toward the cruel. This inevitably leads to cruelty to the merciful, abomination and perceived dependence on a so-called super-power, on third-party nations and their leaders rather than on The Almighty.

These elitist tendencies then flow down to the masses of the Am with its various factions threatening violence against their leaders as well as each other’s faction.

And so, the purpose of Parshat Ha’azinu seems, to this author based on the various commentaries above, to impact upon not only man’s heart, but upon man’s mind and thought processes.

In pondering this vort on Parshat Ha’azinu in our year 5783, the words “strive” and “strife” have come to mind. It’s amazing how, in the English language, the change of one letter in a word can, at once, both radically change the spirit and tenor (noun
the course of thought or meaning that runs through something written or spoken; purport; drift. continuous course, progress, or movement)
of a word while expressing similar attributes.

Notice both the tenors and similarities:

Strive (as defined on

Verb (used without object), strove [strohv] or strived, striv·en [striv-uhn] or strived, striv·ing.
to exert oneself vigorously; try hard: He strove to make himself understood.
to make strenuous efforts toward any goal: to strive for success.
to contend in opposition, battle, or any conflict; compete.
to struggle vigorously, as in opposition or resistance: to strive against fate.
to rival; vie.

strife (as defined on

vigorous or bitter conflict, discord, or antagonism: to be at strife.
a quarrel, struggle, or clash: armed strife.
competition or rivalry: the strife of the marketplace.
Archaic. strenuous effort.

Tehillim Psalm 81 clearly expresses the point of Hashem’s mercy where B’nai Yisrael rebelled, forgot and strayed from Hashem and Torah (Artscroll Nusach Ashkenaz siddur, page 169):

“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 two posukim in our Parshat mentioned above (ibid, posukim 16-17) bring to mind today’s malaise — the new “normal”, today’s so-called western “morality, so-called “human rights.”

Rav Zelig Pliskin, in his sefer “Growth Through Torah” (pages 467-468) goes much further in discussing the abovementioned posuk (Sefer Devarim, Perek 32, posuk 17). He first renders the end of the posuk slightly different and then comments:

“…Newcomers recently arrived, whom your forefathers did not know.”

“The process of new false ideologies,” commented Rabbi Avigdor Miller (in his sefer “Rejoice O Youth,” page 25), “is part of the constant test of virtue which living men must endure all of their lives. But the Torah and the Torah people are an old and established firm, which has been in business for few thousand years and has weathered many crises and outlived many competitors. We view the opponents, physical or ideological, who rise up against us in every generation…; and we know that they will go down into oblivion as did all the upstarts who preceded them.”

We are, after nearly 2,000 years of golus — of persecution, pogroms, domination by the nations, of the Sho’a, finally a national sovereignty, in OUR OWN Land, Eretz Yisrael. We who live in Eretz Yisrael 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. Instead, we suffer governance by groups who, by and large, at heart, seek to turn Jews into Israelis who are devoid of Torah spirituality, ergo, the strife.

As Jews in OUR LAND, we have the responsibility to strive to behave as Jews with righteousness and integrity — both in words and actions — between the governing and the governed, between our brethren in all sectors and, on battlefields of mandatory wars for Torah, for our survival, versus adversaries who seek nothing less than our total annihilation.

Can it be said, despite the evolvement in our national governance of forsaking Hashem, our roots, our heritage for other counsels and avodah zora, that Hashem continues to protect us with his Clouds of Glory? 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 responsibilities and strive to fulfill our obligations to this Covenant with Hashem, while avoiding strife among ourselves whether by governance against segments of the governed or by factions against each other, going forward in the years ahead.

R’ Goldin notes (ibid, page 364):

Standing before Am Yisrael during the final hours of his life, …[Moshe Rabbeinu] has a single agenda. He desperately wants to convince his people to keep faith with Hashem, to remain loyal to their Creator and to His law over the long term.

….The quality and strength of your relationship with another is determined by whether or not your partner can trust you to “be there.”

During the years that have brought you to this point, the most important lesson you have learned is that you can trust in Hashem’s constant presence and personal care…. The true measure of Hashem’s love for you has been shown through His constancy, through His personal care for you over the course of your wilderness wanderings, day after day.

Day after day, year after year, century after century, you must prove to Hashem that He can trust you.

Finally, returning to Rabbi Goldin’s Parsha summary {ibid, page 351):

Upon concluding Shirat Ha’azinu, Moshe encourages the people to preserve its message across the ages.

May we, the B’nei 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, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, all at total government expense; due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now in his second year at home in Eretz Yisrael. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of eight years ago. 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 prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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 Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
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.