If you don’t see this week’s issue by the end of the week, check http://parshapotpourri.blogspot.com which may be more up-to-date
Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
Parshas Haazinu - Vol. 4,
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Haazinu HaShomayim v’adabeirah v’sishma ha’aretz imrei fi (32:1)
Just before the conclusion of the Shofros section of the Rosh Hashana Mussaf prayers, we praise Hashem “Ki Atah shome’ah kol shofar u’ma’azin teruah v’ein domeh lach” – You hear the sound of the shofar and listen closely to the teruah, and there is none like You. This line is difficult to understand for many reasons. Why do we change from discussing the shofar to mentioning the sound that it makes (teruah)? Secondly, why do we switch the verb used to refer to Hashem’s listening from “shome’ah” to “ma’azin?” Finally, what is the unique praise which we offer Hashem – stating that there is none comparable to Him – for the simple act of listening to the shofar?
The Medrash Tanchuma (Haazinu 2) notes that while Moshe said “haazinu” to the Heavens and “sishmah” to the earth in our verse, a similar verse said by the prophet Yeshaya (1:2) switches the verbs. The Medrash explains that “Haazinu” is applicable when addressing a subject that is close to the speaker, while “sishmah” is used when the listener is farther away. Because Moshe received the Torah, he was closer to the Heavens and spoke to them using the verb “Haazinu” while employing “sishma” to address the more distant earth. Yeshaya was based on earth, so he reversed the verbs.
In the introduction to his commentary on Shulchan Aruch, the Pri Megadim writes that the shofar symbolizes the pure sound of the righteous, while the whimpering teruah represents the cry of the sinner who regrets his errant ways. One would assume that although Hashem will listen to both of them, He prefers to be closer to the pious man who never sinned. However, the Gemora in Berachos (34b) teaches that in the place where ba’alei teshuvah (repentant sinners) stand, even the most righteous tzaddikim are unable to stand.
With this introduction, the Pri Megadim brilliantly explains the line in the prayer with which we began. Chazal specifically tailored their verb usage to indicate that while Hashem hears (ùåîò) the voice of the tzaddik, He listens from an even closer place to the cries of the ba’al teshuvah. It is for this willingness to draw closer to the ba’al teshuvah than to even the most pious individual that we laud Hashem and proclaim “v’ein domeh lach” – there is none comparable to You!
Haazinu HaShomayim v’adabeirah v’sishma ha’aretz imrei fi (32:1)
In the beginning of Parshas Haazinu, the Medrash (Devorim Rabbah 10:1) cryptically asks whether it is permissible to treat somebody who is suffering from an earache on Shabbos. The Medrash answers that the Sages have taught that saving a person’s life takes precedence over the desecration of Shabbos. What is the connection between this Medrash and Parshas Haazinu? Secondly, what is the intention of the Medrash, as earaches are generally not life-threatening, and the law that one may desecrate Shabbos to save a person’s life is a more general rule not specific to earaches?
The Chasam Sofer explains the Medrash by noting that there is a legal dispute whether a person is permitted to confess his sins on Shabbos. Some maintain that it is permissible since it gives him pleasure to repent and atone for his transgressions, while others forbid it because the focus and emphasis on his misdeeds causes him anguish. Therefore, it is questionable whether it is permissible for somebody lecturing on Shabbos to rebuke the listeners. Even if he feels that they need to hear his reproof to inspire them to improve their ways, doing so on Shabbos may be forbidden because it causes them pain.
However, on the Shabbos preceding Yom Kippur, commonly known as Shabbos Shuva, which has the power to rectify all of the Shabbosim of the previous year (Mishnah Berurah 603:2), the rebuke which the speaker gives is classified as pikuach nefesh (life-saving) and permissible according to all opinions. Proof to this may be brought from the fact that Tosefos writes (Menachos 30a d.h. mi’kan) that Moshe died at the time of Mincha on Shabbos. On his final day in this world, Moshe said the harsh words of rebuke contained in Parshas Haazinu. Because Moshe realized that this was his final opportunity to do so, he considered the admonishment to be pikuach nefesh which was allowable even on Shabbos.
We may now understand the true intention of the Medrash and its connection to Parshas Haazinu. In discussing a person whose ear hurts him, the Medrash doesn’t refer to a medical ailment but rather to a person who suffers anguish upon hearing words of rebuke. The Medrash questions whether it is nevertheless permissible to “cure” him on Shabbos by giving him needed words of reproof. The Medrash answers that although this question is normally subject to a dispute, in a case of pikuach nefesh – such as on Shabbos Shuva, when Parshas Haazinu is often read – it is certainly allowed, with the proof coming from the rebuke given by Moshe on Shabbos which is contained within the parsha!
Al asher m’altem bi b’soch B’nei Yisroel b’Mei Merivas Kodesh Midbar Tzin al asher lo kidashtem osi b’soch B’nei Yisroel (32:51)
As a result of Moshe’s sin at Mei Meriva (the waters of strife), Hashem told him that he would die in the wilderness and wouldn’t merit leading the Jews into the land of Israel. In explaining his actual sin, the Torah seems to give two explanations: Moshe trespassed against Hashem, and he also failed to sanctify Hashem’s name among the Jewish people. What are the two different components of this sin, and in what way are they connected?
The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (3:1) warns a person to remember that he will be required to give a din v’cheshbon – judgment and accounting – before Hashem, the King of Kings. As Chazal don’t waste words or repeat themselves with unnecessary synonyms, a number of commentators question what is the difference between judgment and accounting? The Vilna Gaon explains that “din” is what a person visualizes when he imagines the process of Divine justice; it is the punishment that a person will receive for his actions. As if that weren’t scary enough, the Mishnah teaches us that a person must also give a “cheshbon.” He will additionally be punished for the opportunity cost of the sin, which is all of the good deeds which he could have accomplished with the time and resources that he invested in the sin.
The Meshech Chochmah explains that the Torah is emphasizing these same two concepts. It begins by stating Moshe’s actual sin: he trespassed against Hashem by hitting the rock instead of speaking to it. Additionally, Rashi writes that had Moshe followed Hashem’s orders and publicly demonstrated the rock bringing forth water at Hashem’s verbal command, a tremendous sanctification of Hashem’s name would have occurred. The Torah emphasizes that even the great Moshe had to give a din v’cheshbon and was punished not only for what he did, but also for what he had the potential to do.
The Meshech Chochmah (30:20) extends this explanation to the mitzvah of repenting on Yom Kippur in a most powerful way. The Gemora in Yoma (85b) teaches that if a person does proper teshuvah on Yom Kippur, the combination of his teshuvah and the holiness of the day will atone even for very serious sins. If Yom Kippur passes without him repenting his actions, the day won’t effect forgiveness even for the most minor of his sins.
As a result, the din which a person will have to give for neglecting the positive commandment of doing teshuvah on Yom Kippur is no more severe than for failing to perform any other positive commandment. However, the cheshbon for neglecting this “simple” mitzvah is greater than for virtually anything imaginable. Every sin which a person did over the past year could have been forgiven through his proper repentance, and the opportunity cost of not doing so is that every sin will now remain a blemish on his soul as a result of this one action, a cheshbon beyond anything we could possibly imagine!
the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) The Gemora in Berachos (21a) derives from 32:3 that one is Biblically obligated to recite a blessing prior to the study of Torah. Is it permissible to study words of Torah with somebody who hasn’t recited the appropriate blessing beforehand? (K’Motzei Shalal Rav)
2) How many words are there in Parshas Haazinu, and what is its significance? (Genuzos HaGra)
3) Does the mitzvah to eat on the day before Yom Kippur (Orach Chaim 604:1) begin on the night prior to Yom Kippur or only in the morning? (Magen Avrohom 604:1; Aishel Avrohom Botchatch and Yad Ephraim Orach Chaim 604)
4) The Shulchan Aruch rules (606:1) that Yom Kippur will not atone for sins in which one has hurt another Jew until he has been appeased. Is a person required to pacify somebody who is upset at him without a legitimate cause? (S’fas Emes Yoma 87b)
5) The Shulchan Aruch rules (606:1) that Yom Kippur will not atone for sins in which one has hurt another Jew until he has been appeased. If one knows that a person he insulted has completely forgiven him, is he still required to ask for forgiveness? (Mateh Moshe 848, Moadim U’Zmanim 1:54, Pele Yoetz Ma’areches Teshuvah, Shu”t D’var Yehoshua 5:20, Shu”t Az Nidb’ru 7:65)
© 2009 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Shema Yisrael Torah Network