Ha’azinu (Deuteronomy 32) A Sabbath of Forgiveness? And What of God’s?

sculpture of moses
Photo by Maria Laura Catalogna on Pexels.com

            So, we come to this very interesting Torah portion. The poem/song that Moses speaks as the reality of the ending of his life becomes all too real. These 52 verses say so much. There is great imagery here. Look at the very beginning as Moses asks that his words, spoke to the Israelites, “come down as dew..like showers on young growth”, as if to say that the slow rain is of greater benefit than a sudden shower. Is he saying that words of comfort and kindness may have greater impact on a situation that anger and outbursts? Moses reminds us in verse 7 to “Remember the days of old” and that elders can be of great importance in unpacking issues. An important message for our youth-oriented ageist world.

            The poem recounts the agony and frustration of Israel’s journey and relationship with God. Moses vents his frustration at the Israelites failure to follow God’s ways. He even seems to quote God in 19ff as to God’s anger at the fact that His people had strayed. A challenge in the poem, as Rabbi Plaut points out in his essay found in his Torah commentary (p 1564) is that despite God’s promise to exact revenge on this people, God still holds out to His people hope. Is God afraid that if He does exact true revenge, that the other nations (Gods) will mock Him? (27)

            But there is another issue that needs to be discussed here. This Shabbat is Shabbat “Tshuvah. This is the Sabbath of Repentance, the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Special prayers are read at worship that speak to this idea of repentance and forgiveness. But where is the forgiveness in the poem?  At the end of the chapter (48ff) God calls to Moses and reminds him that he, like Aaron, will die. The reason? Verse 51 “for you both broke faith with Me among the Israelite people, at the waters of Meribath-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, by failing to uphold My sanctity among the Israelite people”.

            In this season of forgiveness, where is God’s?

Shabbat shalom and G’mar Tov

1 Comment

  1. I’m wondering if Moshe ever asks for forgiveness? Midrashically, he argues that he should be allowed to enter the land, but does he ever acknowledge that striking the rock was “wrong”?

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