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Parshas HaAzinu and V’Zos Habracha - Praise and Inviting Hashem In

By Rabbi Yosef Tropper

Posted on 09/21/18

Note: It is not a double parsha this week, we are just publishing early due to the busy nature of this time of the year


1) Praising Hashem


HaAzinu Hashamayim va’adabeira” (Devarim 32:1). Moshe calls to the heavens and the earth, they’re going to give testimony about the Jewish people keeping the Torah and the mitzvos. Moshe says, “ki Sheim Hashem ekra, havu godel LEilokeinu.” Ramban explains a cryptic comment here. “Ki Sheim Hashem ekra baShamayim.” When I call to God in heaven, “havu godel LEilokeinu ba’aretz”, give respect to G-d in the land.  


We recite this pasuk before we start Mussaf and Mincha Shemoneh Esrai. We’ve explained in the past, based on the Seforno, a beautiful, beautiful p’shat, which might tie into this as well.  Seforno explains, “Ki Sheim Hashem ekra”, when I call to Hashem which is middas harachamim, that’s what I call to.  I say, “Hashem, please, have mercy on me, answer my teffillos, give me what I need!” Nonetheless, the Rebono Shel Olam, sometimes, says: No.  It’s not good for you.  It’s not what’s best for you.  I’m not going to answer that tefillah the way you want me to answer it.  I’m going to give you some din because that’s what you need.  “Havu godel LElokeinu”. Says the Seforno: Make sure to give praise to Elokeinu, praise Hashem even when he acts as a dayan, middas hadin, and say: Rebono Shel Olam, you know what’s best.


Bring Hashem into Our Lives


This could be that that’s what the Ramban is saying here as well.  “Ki Sheim Hashem ekra bashamayim.”  When I call out to Hashem in heaven, and I say: God,  I want to be spiritual, I want to be great give me the ability to focus on You and not be distracted. Then, “havu godel LElokeiny ba’aretz”.  Let’s be practical. We live in a physical world. We have a physical existence, and we have physical challenges. We have to find Hashem in the physical, in the mundane, and that’s what we’re trying to give Hashem that acknowledgement and bring Hashem into our lives.


2) Recognizing His Kindness


“Am navel v’lo chacham (Devarim 32:6).” Ssometimes, says Moshe, you guys acted foolishly. Ramban explains that there’s two aspects of life that are opposite. One of them is that if someone does something favorable to you, they’re called a nediv because they’re generous, but if someone does something nasty to you, and despite you having been nice to them and having given them things, they’re called a navel, they’re called a fool because it’s so perverse and unacceptable that it earns a strong negative title.  


Ramban says that we always want to make sure that we’re a nediv. Nediv lev, that we see that the people that donated their hearts to Hashem in the mishkan they were paying back Hashem and being makir tov to Hashem, but the navel, the fool says: Hashem, yeah He did all these acts of kindness for us, but let’s deny it and let’s not serve Him, and to be ungrateful and to be nasty, and there is a certain imbalance that is created when someone does a kindness for you.  We have to make sure that we’re always paying back kindness to people with generosity and care, especially with the Rebono Shel Olam who’s the ultimate nediv, Who gives for us, and we should have nediv leiv when it comes to serving Him and make sure that we are not an am navel, not acting foolishly by ignoring the great that Hashem has done for us.


3) Torah is a Shira, Unlimited


I mentioned last week that Ha’azinu is a song. These pesukim share beautiful lessons in life.  A song is something that we remember and incorporate into our lives, and so what we’re doing here in Shiras Haazinu is to recognize that it’s a song that can have an impact on it.  Now, you might ask that the gemara says that Dovid Hamelech was punished because he called Torah a song because he  called it, “Zemiros hayu l’chukecha b’veis meguri” So why here are we calling Torah a song?


The answer lies in the difference between shira and zimrah. Shira comes from the word shir which is a ring.  A ring is something that is unlimited.  It goes around and around and around.  The Torah is unlimited.  That we’re supposed to talk about.  We unlimitedly want to grow; we ultimately want to connect with the Torah.  But, a zemer comes from the word to prune. It has a limitation, so the mistake of David Hamelech was that he called Torah a zemer, expressing its limitation. That we’re not allowed to do, but the shira-song type, that’s eternal.


4) Removed From Hashem


“Mikaas banav u’benosav.” (Devarim 32:9) Ramban points out that often in the Torah it does not use the word banos. It usually just includes the girls under the catagory of banim, children. Why are they mentioned here though? Says the Ramban: there’s a remez here that there’s going to be a churban that’s going to happen in generations to come in which not only will there be kaas banav, the anger that Hashem has towards men, but, “u’venosav”, there’s going to be women that are so evil and that are so distant from Hashem that they get their own category in itself. Yirmiyahu Hanavi also talks about these women as well.


Women’s Power


Women are very powerful forces in their family.  “Chochmas nashin bansa beisah”.  She has a power to build her house.  But, “Iveles b’yadeha tiharsena”, if she’s a fool, she has, G-d forbid, the power to destroy the entire house. A woman should always be careful that there’s a special category here “kaas banav u’benosav” that they are singled out that the banav have a power, the males have a power and benosav, the women have a power as well and that power of destruction represents their power of building as well. That when they do the right thing, they are the most powerful.  They are the “eishes chayil ateres ba’alah” that “at alis al culana”, that build the entire Jewish home.


5) God’s Plan


Hashem says that I would destroy the people if they’re not acting properly (32:26) Ramban says it explicitly: What’s the purpose of the briyah, creation? Hashem created the world in order that we should serve him, and we should know Hashem and get close to Him. Therefore, in briyas haolam our desire is to create a nation that would be close to Him and know Him and would represent Him and Avraham is the one that picked that up for his generations to come. This is such a yesod.  We talked about what Avraham represents and what Jewish people, we are a light upon the nations.


6)  All Time


Ramban (32:40) quotes the Sifri: This shira which has the word “achshav” and has the “she’avar” and “le’asid lavo”.  It has the present, past and future. This shira is just so great. Ramban is saying that this shira is telling us something that happened in the past; it’s telling us how to act in the present; and it’s telling us about the future as well, and that is why it is so important. This shira is so powerful and when we think about this last message that Moshe Rabbeinu left the Jewish people, it’s the message of the eternity of Torah that the history of the Torah, where we come from, what we represent, the present day, for that it was Klal Yisrael in the year 2448, when Moshe took them out of Mitzrayim, through Hashem’s guidance and leadership and gave them the Torah, whether it was the forty years in the Midbar, thousands of years ago, over three thousand years ago. This was their present moment and it also had the future, like the Ramban explains. It talks about Olam Hazeh and Olah Habah and that is what life is all about, and the ultimate message of every shira, every single song, is the eternity of Torah and the eternity of Klal Yisrael’s mission and our connection to Hashem, and that’s what we are always focusing on.


Parshas Vzos Habracha


1) Eternal Torah


 “Torah tziva lanu Moshe (33:4).” This pasuk is the one we teach our children because we want them to know that there’s a mesorah.  “Morasha kehillas Yaakov.” Moshe gave us a Torah from Hashem.  That’s one about our mesorah, and “Morasha kehillas Yaakov.”  It’s something that everyone has a cheilek in, and you have a cheilek in it as well. Ramban himself says, “Why is this pasuk so important? Why is it that we teach it to every child first? Because it’s l’doros olam.  It’s something that Torah applies forever.  We never want to forget about it.  A person should always know that Torah is for each one of us.


Kehillas Yaakov Unity


“Kehillas Yaakov.”  Why is it “kehillas Yaakov”, the group of Yaakov?  Why doesn’t it say, “Bnei Yaakov”?  The answer is because it is for anyone that joins our kehillah.  Even a geir, even a convert like Shemaya v’Avtalyon were geirim, they became great people. Akiva ben Yosef, the famous Rebbe Akiva came from converts. People have different backgrounds whether they’re ba’alei teshuva, whether they’re geirim. We love and embrace all Jews. Rus haneviah who’s the mother of mashiach, the great-grandmother of David hamelech and Shlomo, nonetheless, Torah is a democracy in the sense. The Rebono Shel Olam’s Torah is eternal, but it’s a democracy in the sense that anyone could become a gadol baTorah.  Anyone that dedicates themselves to Torah can become great. That’s the “morasha kehillas Yaakov”.  Anyone that could join the kehillah could become the greatest of the gedolei Yisrael by dedicating their lives to understanding Hashem.


2) Order of Moshe’s Blessings


Moshe gives his last berachos to the twelve shevatim. Ramban says that the order that the shevatim were given blessings, there’s always twelve tribes that are listed, and Moshe gave blessings the order in the honor of their nachalah of how the portions of Eretz Yisrael were going to be divided in the future. That’s why Reuvein is listed first.


Calculated Actions


The lesson that I see from is is just an idea that we should always have a calculation in the order that we go.  We talk to our children. There should always be a calculation of who we put first and how we put them because kids react to these things.  And, there is  a calculation in the Torah as well for the order throughout all the parshios whenever we find different orders, there’s a specific reason for that.


3) Binyamin’s Beracha Hints to Three Batei Mikdash


“Yedid Hashem yishkone la’betach alav.” (33:12) Binyamin is the dear one of Hashem, where the Beis Hamikdash is mostly in his portion. Ramban says that there are three Batei Mikdasha and the pesukim here are hinting to all three of them. The first one is “Yishkone labetach alav,” that Hashem will be there and be present, and that is because in the Bayis Rishon the Rebono Shel Olam’s Shechinah was there.  Kavod Hashem malei es habayis.  It was there and present.  That’s the first Beis Hamikdash. 


The second Beis Hamikdash is “chofeif alav kol hayom.”  It’s hovering there, but it’s not felt in presence because the Shechinah was not felt there, and it was not covering it or protecting it. It was “chofaif”; it was distant. Finally, “Bein kaseifav shachein”, is on Bayis Shleishi, in yimos hamashiach Hashem will dwell with us in Yerushalayim, kisei Hashem. (Ramban based on Sifri) When we look at the beautiful words of the Torah, there’s so many remazim to what our purpose in life is.  It’s a very, very powerful thing.


4) Moshe Prepared the way, but Hashem Did Everything


The very last pasuk of the Torah tells us about Moshe’s greatness “asher asah Moshe”.  The Ramban says that “asah” does not mean that he did it because Moshe didn’t do anything.  Asah just means that he prepared. What is “asheir asah Moshe l’einei kol Yisrael”.  What was the biggest lesson that Moshe Rabbeinu taught us?  It was that I prepare things. 


Mishlei states (21:31): “Sus muchan l’yom milchamah.”  That’s what the pasuk says: You prepare the horse. “v’laHashem hateshua”.  Hashem is the one who brings the ultimate salvation. That is the entire lesson of the Torah that you prepare and Hashem will complete, and that’s abig yesod of the Ramban: that you do your hishtadlus, but live in a natural world and act in a natural ways, and the Rebono Shel Olam brings salvation and does everything.


5) Closing Words on Ramban and This Series


This concludes our segments on the Ramban. We’ve spent a parsha cycle together on this fascinating exploration and extrapolation of the words of Ramban.


This has been for me, and I hope for you as well, a most fascinating journey in learning Torah, in developing the beautiful words of the Ramban. I hope that it’s something that you’ll benefit from, whether you’re a one time listener or whether you listen every week or whether you sometimes go back to a certain parsha, whether some people have enjoyed listening to it in the verbal sense, some people have enjoyed reading it.  Some people have enjoyed both.  Many people have written in with different comments, critiques and questions, and many things have been corrected on my part when I made mistakes.


My interpretation of the Ramban is based on how I read it or based on how I learn from, some of the p’shatim from my rabbei’im, and, of course, we want to make sure it’s always accurate.  So, thank you so much for joining.  It’s been an amazing. Chaz V’ematz!


Rabbi Yosef Tropper is a rav and psychotherapist. Learn more and subscribe at ParshaThemes.com