Almost all of Ha'azinu is a song, written in the Torah in two parallel columns. Moshe summons the heavens and the earth to stand as eternal witnesses to what will happen if the Jewish People sin and do not obey the Torah. He reminds the people to examine the history of the world, and note how the Jewish People are rescued from obliteration in each generation - that G-d "pulls the strings" of world events so that Bnei Yisrael can fulfill their destiny as His messengers in the world. G-d's kindness is such that Israel should be eternally grateful, not just for sustaining them in the wilderness, but for bringing them to a land of amazing abundance, and for defeating their enemies. But, this physical bounty leads the people to become self-satisfied and over-indulged. Physical pleasures corrupt the morals of the people. They worship empty idols and powerless gods, and indulge in all kinds of depravity. G-d will then let nations with no moral worth subjugate Israel and scatter them across the world. However, their only purpose is as a rod to chastise the Jewish People. When these nations think that it is through their own power that they have dominated Israel, G-d will remind them that they are no more that a tool to do His will. The purpose of the Jewish People is fundamental - that man should know his Creator. Neither exile nor suffering can sever the bond between G-d and His people, and eventually in the final redemption this closeness will be restored. G-d will then turn His anger against the enemies of Israel, as though they were His enemies, showing no mercy to the tormentors of His people. G-d then gives His last commandment to Moshe: That he should ascend Mount Nevo and be gathered there to his people.
A Word in Your Ear
“Give ear, O heavens!” (32:1)
A word in the ear is always more effective than a shout from a distance.
When G-d wants to get His message across to us, He “speaks quietly” in the “ear” of our neshama (soul) and then the neshama dictates His Will to the body. That’s the meaning of the line in this week’s Torah portion “Ha’azinu: Give ear, O heavens and I will speak. Listen O earth, to the words of My mouth.” The heavens represent the soul. The body is represented by the earth. If the heavens “Give ear” (the root of the word “Ha’azinu” is “ozen”, meaning “ear”), if the soul heeds the softly spoken command of its Creator, then the earth will follow the “words of my Mouth” — meaning that the body will respond to G-d’s bidding.
However, if the soul turns a “deaf ear” to the Voice of the Eternal, then G-d has to speak in the “ear” of the body directly – and that communication can be painful.
The intention, however, is never vindictive. Everything that G-d does is for our good. When the soul fails to respond to G‑d’s communication, He uses the body as a way of getting the soul’s attention.
Which is why in the haftara of the Torah portion of Devarim the Navi Yishayahu says “Ha’azini - Give ear – O earth!” Here, in contradistinction to this week’s Torah portion, the prophet is speaking in the “ear” of the body. Yishayahu is warning the Jewish People to where their sins will lead. The ears of their souls are closed to G-d’s warnings, and thus the body will have to “give ear”. And that message is relayed in the language that the body understands.
The name of this Shabbat is Shabbat Shuva – a name taken from the opening lines of the haftara. Shuva means return. We are in the midst of a week in which G-d is waiting for us to return to Him. If we open up the ears of our soul, we will hear the Voice. If we don’t, G-d has many other ways of grabbing our attention, which are not as subtle as the word in our ear.
- Sources: The Ovstovtzer Gaon as heard from Rabbi C. Z. Senter