Rabbi Finkelstein

FIRST ALIYAH- The parsha of Haazinu has numerous motifs and themes right throughout, with numerous commentaries. We will examine briefly a few of the ideas seen in each Aliyah. The parsha begins with a call to the heavens and earth to witness the deliverance of the poem of Haazinu which on the one hand castigates the people of Israel for its behaviour, and also declares that in the future Israel will be redeemed. The Kli Yakar relates that the very existence of heaven and earth is connected to the fact that Israel willingly received the Torah at Sinai. The Torah serves as a medium by which two ‘opposites’, heaven and earth can coexist.

We also derive from this Aliyah the injunction to answer ‘Amen’ to a blessing. In the Temple, the response to a blessing is ‘Blessed be the kingdom of G-d forever and ever.’

In line with the Ten Days of Penitence, the Ohr Hachaim comments on the description that G-d is righteous and correct, that when G-d sits in judgment on the people of Israel, He uses the characteristic of Din or harsh justice. However, G-d immediately transfers His approach to reflect the second characteristic of Rachamim, or compassion.

At the same time, the Ohr Hachaim points out that Israel has been affected by disparate elements in the community which expresses atheistic sentiments. Unfortunately, these sentiments translate into harsh and hardened philosophical attitudes which have no place in Judaism.

SECOND ALIYAH- This Aliyah traces the history and development of the nation of Israel, and calls out to the present day members of this community to consult with their sages about their formation as a nation. From here, as well as in the beginning of Parshat Shoftim, the rabbis of the Talmud derive the foundation of their authority. The verses in Shoftim are more legalistic in tone, the verse in Haazinu, more poetic.

During the course of this Aliyah, there are numerous references to G-d’s protection given to the people of Israel, themes that are pronounced in other places in the Torah. At the same time, the poem of Haazinu declares that the special status of the people of Israel also points to their isolation among the families of nations.

THIRD ALIYAH- The blessings of success and power can indeed corrupt, as the people of Israel have become complacent in their religious behaviour. They have violated their mandate to be the people of G-d by engaging in all kinds of excesses in addition to experimenting in all kinds of idolatry. The Ramban indicates that the Jewish nation as a result of its isolation wishes to be welcomed into the community of nations, and is willing to sacrifice its principles and values in order to be accepted.

FOURTH ALIYAH- As a result of the violations committed against Hashem, Hashem will remove His protection from the people of Israel, and hide His face from them. Instead of appreciating the gift of Torah that G-d has given them, the people of Israel consider these gifts of mitzvot to be undesirable albatrosses to be removed.

FIFTH ALIYAH- Rashi writes that this Aliyah is divided into two parts. The first part is highly condemnatory of the people of Israel in that their failure to observe the Torah will lead to their downfall as a nation, subject to the whims and occupations of foreign forces. On the other hand, the second part of this Aliyah speaks about the redemption of the Jewish people and the defeat of those who wish us harm. The Ramban indicates that the Jewish people possess a particular quality referring to their realization and recognition that what befalls them is not happenstance, and that they must repent to overturn any harsh decrees against them. (A similar theme is expressed at the end of Unetaneh Tokef which we recite on the High Holidays.)

SIXTH ALIYAH- This Aliyah speaks about Hashem’s revenge against the nations that have done the Jewish people harm over the course of centuries. The Ramban declares that the entire song of Haazinu is a review of Jewish history culminating in the Final Redemption with the coming of the Messiah, and including a hidden reference to the world to come.

SEVENTH ALIYAH- Moshe teaches the people the song of Haazinu, and admonishes them to forever observe the Torah which is their spiritual lifeline. At the end of the parsha, G-d tells Moshe to prepare for his impending death, and reiterates that Moshe was denied entry into the Promised Land because of his sin in hitting, rather than speaking to the rock to bring forth water in the Meribah incident. Rashi parenthetically addresses the importance of each word of the Torah as significant. In other words, no trivialities enter into the Torah, and even information which does not seem important, in reality is.