Ha'azinu, September 23, 2017 - Tishrei 3, 5778
Torah: Deuteronomy 32:1-52
Haftarah: 2 Samuel 22:1-51
Brit Chadashah (New Testament): Romans 10:14-11:12
The Torah portion this week is called Ha-azinu, which means "Listen." The L-rd is issuing a summons to the heavens and nature to listen to His charge against Israel (32:5). This is a courtroom scene: the L-rd is the plaintiff (the one bringing the law suit); Israel is the defendant; the heavenly bodies/nature are the witnesses/jury. This passage is expressed poetically, in the form of a song. It is a very dramatic way to warn Israel what will happen if it makes a choice to worship the Canaanite gods. The L-rd is not being pessimistic about Israel’s ability to be faithful. Rather, He is being realistic—Israel had already demonstrated an inclination to “cheat on the L-rd” at the episode of the golden calf (Exodus 32:1-4) and at Baal Peor (Numbers 25:1-3). In His mercy, the L-rd is giving Israel a “head’s up”—a glimpse into the future. The message is simply this: "If you pursue these false gods, I am going to haul you into this heavenly court and you will be judged." Events in Israel’s history prove that the L-rd’s concern was well founded.
Shortly after Joshua passed from the scene, Israel began to act as if it never heard of the L-rd G-d (Judges 2:7-11). Israel’s history mirrors human nature—given the right circumstances, all of us can stumble and fall spiritually. We all do well to pay attention to Paul's words: "If you think you are standing firmly, pay attention because you may fall," (I Corinthians 11:8).
Perhaps we too need a glimpse into the future, like the L-rd provided Israel—hopefully, not too often. We need to be vividly reminded of our potential to sin; to turn away from the L-rd for all kinds of reasons. Only when we appreciate that fact, will we be driven to cling to the L-rd; to solely depend upon His power to keep us remaining on the “straight and narrow.”
Let us be encouraged by the fact that He, and He alone “is able to keep [us] from falling and to present [us] before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy,” (Jude 24).