Rabbi Oury Cherki

Ha'azinu – The Radiance is Yours

Translated from Hebrew. Published at the Noahide World Center website and in Shabbat B'Shabbato.

The Torah portion of Ha’azinu is the only one that has an ancient tradition about how it should be divided into short segments among the people who read it in public. The division is indicated by the phrase “Haziv Lach” – The radiance is Yours – which is an acronym – the first letter of the first word of each of the separate reading segments (Rosh Hashanah 31a). This can be for us a key to understanding the essence of the inner structure of the epic poem Ha’azinu, which provides a framework for understanding the general historic process of the nation of Israel and G-d’s guidance of them. Let us look at the contents of each segment:

Ha‘azinu” – Listen, heaven (verses 1-6): This puts an emphasis on the simple process of reward and punishment – the Judgmental Process.

Zachor” – Remember the days of old (verses 7-12): This emphasizes the inherent unique and special trait of Israel (“segulah,” a treasure), which does not depend on action but rather on the fact that G-d would have chosen us even if we did not have any merits because of our deeds. “For the portion of G-d is His nation” [32:9].

Yarkiveihu” – He will ride up to the high places of the earth (verses 13-18): This describes “kicking” (32:15), the rejection of the Torah of G-d, which among other things is a result of an exaggerated faith in the power of the segulah of Israel. We are convinced that G-d remains with us and will not allow us to be torn apart after He has already chosen us.

Thus, these first segments present to us the three basic elements of Jewish history: justice, inherent unique traits, and rejection.

The next three segments of the poem describe the necessary consequence of what was described in the first three segments, but in a different sequence.

Vayar” – And G-d saw and He turned away (verses 19-28): This is a direct result of the Judgmental Process. Sinners must be punished. The passage describes a society that is apathetic on the subject of the Divine. “They upset me with a non-god” [32:21] – but not with “other gods.” And the Torah then mentions their vain elements – “they angered me with their vanities” [ibid]. The solution is to punish them measure for measure. “I will upset them with a non-nation, I will get them angry with a cruel nation” [ibid]. A non-nation is the name for a national entity that has no reason to exist on its own except for filling in the empty spaces in our national identity. This is a unique type of struggle, which forces us to return to our original identity.

Lu chochmu” – If only they were wise they would know this (verses 29-40): This is a solution for the rejection of Torah. Additional wisdom is needed in the generation. It corresponds to the insight by Rav Kook – that the spiritual illness of the generation of redemption can only be cured by enhancing our spiritual expertise (Orot HaTeshuvah 4:10), in order to satisfy the intellectual quest of the generation.

Ki essah” – For I will lift my hand up to heaven (verses 41-44): This is a result of our inherent segulah. It consists of Israel’s revenge, carried out by G-d who takes revenge for His people. The revenge takes the form of filling the land with the holy flocks. “And the land will be atoned” [32:43]. This can also mean that the land will be covered by “His nation” (“vechiper” might be related to “Kaporet,” the cover of the Ark).

We can conclude that while on a theoretical basis the intrinsic value of the segulah (G-d’s choice of Israel) takes precedence over the material aspect (where sanctity depends on the actions of the people), the existence of Divine guidance causes the time of the treatment of sins and their consequences to be advanced, in order to allow the factor of inherent worth to appear in full force in the end of days.

The seventh segment of the Torah portion (verses 45-52), which tells us about G-d’s commandment to Moses that the time had come for him to die, emphasizes how important it is for a leader to refuse to play a central role at the point where G-d’s sovereignty over the entire universe becomes clear.