Published Date: September 15, 2017
In this Shabbat’s weekly Torah portion Ha’Azinu Deuteronomy 32:1 – 32:52, the greater part of the Torah reading of Haazinu (“Listen In”) consists of a 70-line “song” delivered by Moses to the people of Israel on the last day of his earthly life.
Calling heaven and earth as witnesses, Moses exhorts the people, “Remember the days of old / Consider the years of many generations / Ask your father, and he will recount it to you / Your elders, and they will tell you” how God “found them in a desert land,” made them a people, chose them as His own, and bequeathed them a bountiful land. The song also warns against the pitfalls of plenty—“Yeshurun grew fat and kicked / You have grown fat, thick and rotund / He forsook God who made him / And spurned the Rock of his salvation”—and the terrible calamities that would result, which Moses describes as God “hiding His face.” Yet in the end, he promises, God will avenge the blood of His servants, and be reconciled with His people and land.
In this week’s Haftara Prophets reading II Samuel 22:1 – 22:51, describes the song King David composed in his old age, echoing the weekly Torah reading, where Moses delivers his parting words to the Jewish nation in song form.
David’s song expresses gratitude to God for saving him from all his enemies. He starts with the famous words, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress.” He goes on to describe the pain and hardships he encountered and reiterates that he always turned to God in his moments of distress. He recounts God’s reaction to those who tormented him: “The Lord thundered from heaven; and the Most High gave forth His voice. And He sent out arrows and He scattered them, lightning and He discomfited them. . . I have pursued my enemies and have destroyed them; never turning back until they were consumed.”