This week’s parasha is entitled Ha’Azinu, which means “give ear.” A modern-day translation would be a command to “listen” to what is about to be said. Ha’Azinu covers all of Deuteronomy, Chapter 32, which contains 52 verses. With this being Shabbat Shuvah, the Great Sabbath of Repentance that occurs between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, this is a very appropriate parasha because the key theme is the repentance that is required for restoration after Israel falls away from the Lord.
This parasha, also commonly known as the Song of Moses, is at the same time a historical narrative of how Israel came to be in the situation that they find themselves, needing to repent, but also describes the overall relationship between God and His people.
Let me first review the historical narrative. For the first time in Scripture, God is referred to as “the Rock,” in verse 4. The rock, something that is permanent, unchanging. And what has the Rock done? In verse 6 we see that He “made and established you.” God created humankind and laid out the course of history before it had even occurred. The history of the world quickly unfolds as we see that God gave the nations their inheritance, verse 8, a reference to the development of the 70 nations from the sons of Noah and this, in time, led to the birth of Jacob, who is referred to as the “allotment of His inheritance,” verse 9. In other words, history was developing up to a certain time, when Jacob, otherwise known as Israel, would be born. We next read that God cared for Jacob, verse 10, and in time, a people sprang from Jacob, a people who were to love and follow the Lord and seek His blessing. However, instead of doing that, Israel, referred to as Jeshurun, in verse 15, which means “upright one,” an obvious ironic reference to the people of Israel, was anything but upright or righteous. Then from verse 15 to verse 33, we read how Israel fell away from God and the judgement God would bring about through Israel’s enemies because of their sin. However, from verse 34 – 44, Israel’s enemies would only be allowed to go so far before God would again show compassion towards his people and provide atonement for God’s land and its people. Thus in a way, Moses, the proclaimer of this song, essentially brings us from Genesis, to the end of Deuteronomy, just before the Israelis are about to enter the Promised Land.
Tied up in this historical narrative is the relationship between God and His people. First we have the accusation of God in verses 5 – 6 which lays out the overall issue that God has against the Israelis. God was faithful and just, however, “They have acted corruptly toward Him, they are not His children,” verse 5. Although God deserved the love and obedience of His people, they did not act that way towards him because of their corrupt nature.
Next, we have an explanation of how God has been faithful, verses 7 – 14. God established the nations, verse 8, he took care of his people as an eagle cares for its young, verse 11, the Lord guided Jacob, Israel, verse 12. God followed through on His promise of faithfulness.
However, in the next section, verses 15 – 18, we see that God’s faithfulness was met with apostasy by the people. “Then he forsook God who made him,” verse 15. “With abominations he provoked him to anger,” verse 16. They sacrificed to demons,” verse 17.
We find God’s reaction to this apostasy in the next section, verses 19 – 27. For some examples, we see that the Lord “spurned them,” verse 19. “I will heap misfortune on them,” verse 23. We see clearly that falling away from the Lord brings negative consequences.
In the next section, verses 28 to 33, we see that even though judgement falls upon the people, they lack the perspective to understand it. “…there is no understanding in them…” verse 28. “Were that they were wise, that they understood this.” (verse 29). It is terrible not to understand how important the relationship with God is. We see this even today.
Then, in verses 34 – 43, the Lord is the one who determines the judgement and the consequence, but who also has the ability to restore people to Himself. “Vengeance is Mine, and retribution,” verse 35. “For the Lord will vindicate His people, and will have compassion on His servants,” verse 36. The Lord will, “atone for His land and His people.” (verse 43)
Our parasha ends with Moses imploring the people to observe all of these words carefully so that they may live in harmony with God when they enter the Promised Land. Then, Moses is instructed to ascend Mt. Nebo to die as he will not be allowed to enter the Promised Land due to his sin of striking the rock twice to bring forth water in Numbers, Chapter 20.
In a way, Parasha Ha’Azinu is like the narrative of our lives. We are born into this world unaware of God. As we grow, little by little, we come to know more about Him and His ways. For some, we see God as the eagle mentioned in this parasha, looking out for us, taking care of us. However, for many others, there is a lack of understanding, perspective, or even appreciation of God and that He truly loves us. During this time between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, a time especially set aside for examining our relationship with God, I would ask that we all think of how we can live more like Yeshua did and how close Yeshua was to His Father and that we would develop our lives in the same way.