2001The Torah portion of this week contains one of the most poetic texts in our tradition, the death song of Moses.
Hypocrisy and Truth
The following is an excerpt:
"Listen heaven! I will speak! Earth! Hear the words of my mouth! My lesson shall drop like rain, my saying shall flow down like the dew - like a downpour on the herb, like a shower on the grass when I proclaim God's name, praise God for His greatness. The deeds of the Mighty One are perfect, for all His ways are just. He is a faithful God, never unfair; righteous and moral is He. Destruction is His children's fault, not His own, you warped and twisted generation. Is this the way you repay God, you ungrateful, unwise nation? Is He not your Father, your Master, the One who made and established you? Remember days long gone by. Ponder the years of each generation. Ask your father and let him tell you, and your grandfather, who will explain it..."
Your Torah Navigator
1. What is the purpose of this song?
2. Why did Moses choose the heaven and earth as witnesses?
3. Throughout the song Moses is very critical when describing the Jewish people. Is this the proper way to get the Jewish people to listen and obey?
4. Is this the approach we expect from Moses?
5. What is our perspective on the perfection of the Mighty One?
The Midrash tries to explains who is Moses:
"Rabbi Tanhuma said: If [Moses] is referred to as 'God,' why [is he also termed] 'man,' and if 'man,' why also 'God?' The reason is this: when he was cast into the river of Egypt [the Nile] he was a man; but when the river was turned into blood [by Moses] he was as God.
"Another explanation: When he fled from before Pharaoh he was a man, but when he drowned [Pharaoh in the sea] he was as God. Another explanation: When he went up to heaven he was a man. And in which respect was he a man? Compared with the angels who are made entirely of fire. But when he came down from heaven he was as God. Whence this? For Scripture says, and they were afraid to come nigh him (Ex. 34, 30).
"Another explanation: When he went up to heaven he was as God. Just as the angels neither eat nor drink, so too he neither ate nor drank. Whence this? For it is said, and he was there with the Lord... he did neither eat bread, nor drink water.
"Another explanation: What is the meaning of THE MAN, GOD? Rabbi Abin said - His lower half was 'man,' but his upper half was as God."
Your Midrash Navigator
1. Can a man be a god? Or transform to an immortal being?
2. What does it mean to be half god, half man?
3. Can we reach this level of God? Do we want this level of godliness to be revealed to us?
4. All the above opinions maintain that Moses was spiritually changed through certain actions, though there is argument as to which action was the cause of the transformation. Which opinion seems most likely?
Life is a process of decisions and choices between good and better, evil and pain.
A daily struggle is the way of life. We all have questions to ask, we all have decisions to make.
Sometimes it is easy, sometimes it is hard, but we have to make those decisions in order to move forward in life.
One of those decisions is between hypocrisy and truth. In many ways it is easy to join the voice of the majority because we are afraid, because we think people will like us better. Moses chose a way of life and made it clear to all that only the truth would guide him. He understood that truth would be the only way to reach God and to reach inner peace. This is the hardest of tests and the essence of our being. We may see hypocrisy and lies all over but our destiny is to fight it, to prove it wrong and expose it.
Prepared by Menachem Even-Israel, Former Campus Rabbi/Jewish Educator, University of Maryland, College Park.
Additional commentaries and text studies on Ha'azinu at MyJewishLearning.com.