Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Parashat Ha'azinu ("Give ear!") - Deuteronomy (Devarim) 32:1-32:52 by Jon Eaton

Parashat Ha'azinu ("Give ear!")  -   Deuteronomy (Devarim)  32:1-32:52  by Jon Eaton

Some background: Ha'azinu (הַאֲזִינוּ) comes from the verb azan (אָזַנ), as does the Hebrew word for "ear" (ozen) which is also comes from the same root as “balance” (izzon).  It is an action and a noun.   The ear has two functions – listening and balance.  It was suggested that because the one organ does both functions then both functions can be considered as one.  Listening creates or distorts balance.

Parsha Ha’azinu begins with a declaration and a calling out to all creation to hear this testimony against Israel and the story of salvation. “Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.”   Deut 32:1

Moses begins with defining the magnificence of Adonai.  “Because I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he”

But then he goes straight for the jugular against Israel calling them a perverse and crooked generation in verse 5.   This is a stark contrast of HaShem’s righteousness.   If only they had sought the council of the older generation, then they would have understood the ways of HaShem; they would have heard that they were the “apple of his eye”.    They would have known His love and may have continued in the blessings that He had planned for them.

He calls them "Jeshurun" and then "fat, thick and corpulent." Jeshurun, in Hebrew, means upright, straight and unbending.   A compliment followed by criticism.   It would be like saying, “I like your shirt, shame about your face”.

But their wickedness forced His righteous hand and in Deut 32:16 we read that “They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods” and in return He sought to “move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.” (verse 22).

The next few verses outline just how HaShem had decided to vent His anger.  A very unhappy few verses.  I simply can’t imagine standing there, listening to Moses whilst he explains how Adonai will one day completely devastate the nation.

v23 - I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them.

v24 - They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust.

v25 - The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs.

v26 - I said, I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men.

Can it get any worse?

Actually, it gets incredibly awesome.  Just when it appears that all hope is gone and possibly every Jew is wiped out from the surface of the earth, the Lord's concern for His reputation among the nations causes Him to repay all of His enemies with vengeance and gives mercy to Israel AND the Gentile nations who are joined with Israel.  “Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.” (verse 43)

In verse 44 we read that Moses and Joshua taught this song to the people.  It is in this verse that the name of Joshua is spelled ‘Hoshia’ (his name before it was changed to Yehoshua just before the Sin of the Spies).   According to Rashi, this was done to reveal his great humility considering the significance of the Yod that was attached to his name earlier.

Upon reflection, this Parsha also contains the context of listening.  Or rather, who are we listening to?    Is this world speaking so loud that it drowns out the quiet voice of the Ruach HaKodesh.  

Here in Australia we are currently undergoing the National Elections.  Every politician is trying desperately to get each Aussie to hear their message.  Most of it is not worth the paid advertising time.  Certainly there are members of our community that hang by their every word (scary).   

Maybe the words we hear from HaShem of discipline frighten us enough to stop listening but if we had just trusted in His unfailing love we would have heard His finale of salvation and rejoicing!  

We need to train our ears to listen to the full Word of the Lord – not just the parts we like. 
Remember that Ha’azinu means “give ear” i.e Listening (שׁמע, shema) to the Torah.  This of course is repeated in the New Testament: "Faith comes from listening to the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17).

And then keeping His word within your hearts. "For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live." (Deut. 32:47). 

This brings perfect balance in life.

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