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Haazinu
What do King David and Jonah have in Common? Print E-mail
Thursday, 20 September 2018

In memory of Ari Fuld z”l, a friend for almost 40 years

When reading the Haftara for Parshat Haazinu (Shmuel Bet, 22:1-51), King David’s Thanksgiving Song, you may experience déjŕ vu. These words sound so familiar that you may say to yourself “I feel like I have heard this recently.”

There are a number of reasons why King David’s ballad is so recognizable:

1.    The same Haftara is also read on Pesach following the Torah reading of Az Yashir (The Song of the Sea).

2.    The words in our Haftara are almost identical to Tehillim, Psalm 18.

3.    Many of the phrases in this Psalm are found in other Psalms as well.

4.    David’s prayer is very similar to Jonah’s prayer which we just read on Yom Kippur.

Let’s take a look at David’s prayer (Shmuel Bet 22:5-7):

For the breakers of death (mishberei mavet) encircled me (afafuni),

The floods of godless men would frighten me.

The pains (chevlei) of the grave (Sheol) surrounded me (sabuni);

The pains of death confronted me.

In my distress (b’tzar li) I called (ekra) upon the Lord,

Yea, I called (ekra) unto my God;

And out of His Temple (Heichalo) He heard my voice (vayishma),

And my cry (shavati) did enter into His ears…

 

Let’s compare that with Jonah’s Prayer (Jonah 2:3-8):

I called (karati), in my distress (mitzara li) to God and He answered me;

From the belly of the grave (Sheol) I cried out (shivati)- You heard my voice (shamata koli).

You cast me into the depth in the heart of the seas, the river surrounded me (yisoveveinu);

All Your breakers (mishbarecha) and waves passed over me.

Then I said ‘I was driven from before Your eyes,

But I will again gaze at your holy Temple (Heichal Kodshecha)!’

Waters encompassed me (afafuni) to the soul, the deep whirled (yisovevenu) around me;

Reeds were tangled about my head.

I descended to the base of the mountains;

The earth- its bars (were closed) against me forever.

Yet you lifted me from the pit, O HaShem, my God

When my soul was faint within me, I remembered God

My prayer came to You, to Your Holy Temple (Heichal Kodeshecha)…

How can it be that King David and Jonah the prophet who lived such totally different lives are saying almost the same prayer and singing almost the same song?

The words “mishberei” (Shmuel Bet) and “mishberecha” (Tehillim) are derived from the root sheber (shatter) and have three different meanings:

1.    Breakers. The literal translation is heavily crashing waves that loudly break at the beach.

2.    Labor pains. Targum translates as pains experienced by a woman on the birthing stool.

3.    A dangerous situation/ crisis. Radak explains that the word comes from the root “break” – as in troubles which break a person.

Both David and Jonah were in danger, they cried out in prayer and were saved by God so even though their stories are very different, the universal message is the same.

Nehama Leibowitz points out that “the individual who expresses his sufferings, who is a world of his own with his own personal history and troubles gives expression at the same time to the tribulations of the people, as a whole, serves as a vehicle for the nation’s troubles in all ages. The deliverance that comes from God…constitutes not merely David’s salvation from the clutches of his enemies, from the hand of Saul, but the salvation of Israel. It refers not merely to any specific occasion of deliverance, be it that of the returning exiles from Babylon, or the Jews in Shushan from Haman or the Maccabees from Antiochus but the deliverance in every generation.”

Right now, the Jewish people are dealing with the “mashber” of the Knife Intifada. This crisis began in 2015 and claimed the life of our friend, Ari Fuld z”l this past week who was murdered by a 16 year old Arab terrorist outside of a shopping center.

During the Ten Days of Repentance, we recited Psalm 130 “Shir HaMaalot Mima’amakim Kraticha HaShem”, “A song of ascents: From the depths I call to you, God” and we will be saying it again on Hoshana Raba.

As we recited on Yom Kippur, “He who answered David and Shlomo (his son) in Jerusalem; He will answer us…He who answered Jonah in the belly of the fish, He will answer us…” may our prayers that we call out to God be answered and may we see true peace in the Land of Israel and throughout the world.

 
Why is there a Sukkah in the Haftara? Print E-mail
Friday, 14 October 2016

The Haftara for Parhshat Haazinu from Shmuel II 22:1-51, also known as Shirat David (David’s Song) is almost identical to Tehilim, Psalm 18.

According to Abravanel, King David wrote the Psalm when he was young and recited it throughout his life whenever he experienced a victory.

The theme of the song is salvation from adversity.

Yalkut Shimoni (Yehoshua 20) lists this song as one of the ten sacred songs of history. The tenth song will be sung when the Mashiach arrives.

In Shmuel II 22:12 we read: “Vayashet choshech svivotav sukkot, chashrat mayim avei shchakim”, “He made darkness into shelters all around Him, the darkness of water, the clouds of heaven.”

According to Rashi “He made darkness into shelters (sukkot)” refers to God’s protection of the Jewish people at the time of the exodus, immediately before the splitting of the sea in Shmot 14:20 “and the cloud of darkness separated between the Egyptians and the Israelites.”

Rashi explains that the darkness emanated from the thick clouds of the sky that would distill water upon the earth as it says in Breisheet Raba 13:10, the clouds distill the rain as a sieve.

Daat Mikra interprets the word “sukkah” as a barrier, screen or cover that protects from above. Here it refers to clouds in the shape of curtains and walls, like screens which hide God’s glory.

As we prepare to gather in our flimsy sukkot, let’s remember that the true protection is from above.

Psalm 18 is traditionally recited for thanksgiving for a miracle.

May we see miracles in the Land of Israel and throughout the world.

 
The Year of Unity Print E-mail
Thursday, 24 September 2015

Dedicated by Sharona and Josh Halickman in memory of Rabbi Sidney Shoham z”l

Parshat Haazinu (Dvarim 22:15) is the first time in the Tanach that we hear the word Yeshurun: “Vayishman Yeshurun vayivat”, “Yeshurun became fat and kicked.”

 

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) explains that the word “Yeshurun” which refers to B’nei Yisrael (the Jewish people) comes from the root “Yashar”, straight, just, upright. It does not deviate from the high standards demanded by God. However, when B’nei Yisrael arrived in the Land of Israel and enjoyed prosperity they had a downfall.

 

We also see Yeshurun mentioned twice in V’Zot HaBracha which will be read on Simchat Torah. Dvarim 33:5: “Vayehi V’Yeshurun Melech…”, “He became King over Yeshurun when the numbers of the nation gathered- the tribes of Israel in unity.” Dvarim 33:26: “Ein K’E-l Yeshurun, “There is none like God, O Yeshurun; He rides across heaven to help you and His majesty through the upper heights.”

 

Yeshurun is mentioned as well in Yishayahu 44:2: “…Al tira avdi Yaakov v’Yeshurun bacharti vo”, “Fear not my servant Yaakov and Yeshurun whom I have chosen.”

 

In the liturgy for Yom Kippur we find “For you are the Forgiver of Israel and the Pardoner of the tribes of Yeshurun in every generation…”

 

We see from here that even those who are normally straight laced still have the capability to sin.

 

According to the Rashbam (1085-1174) one of the reasons for the holiday of Sukkot is to remind us that everything comes from God. God protected us in the desert for 40 years and then he brought us to the Land of Israel. In the fall, when we harvest our produce, it is the time to recognize that it is not the farmer alone who grew this produce. Without God’s help there would be no produce. During the harvest, while our homes are full of prosperity it is the time to go outside and live in a hut to remind ourselves that God is still taking care of us the way that He did when we were in the wilderness.

 

We also see that God becomes King over us when the tribes of Israel unite together. This is an opportunity to reflect on how we can work on uniting the Jewish people especially as this Sukkot falls immediately after the conclusion of the Shmita (Sabbatial) year and the Hakhel (Unity) ceremony is performed.

 

Although the Hakhel ceremony is only required when all of the Jews reside in the Land of Israel, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson encouraged the Jews to work on promoting unity during that year.

 

In Israel the Hakhel ceremony has been revived. The first official ceremony took place in 1945 with a special service at the Yeshurun synagogue (is that a coincidence?) followed by a procession to the Kotel (Western Wall) where the Torah was read.

 

This year there will be a special Hakhel ceremony at the Kotel with the Chief Rabbis and President of Israel.

 

May we merit the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash (Temple), the return of a united Jewish people to the Land of Israel and the observance of the Biblical Hakhel ceremony speedily in our days.

  

 
Israel’s Produce- the Best in the World! Print E-mail
Friday, 28 September 2012

In Parshat Haazinu, Devarim 32:13-14 we read part of the song that refers to the rich bounty of the Land of Israel:

 

He would make him ride on the heights of the Land

And have him eat the produce of the fields;

He would suckle him with honey from the stone and oil from a flinty rock;

Butter of cattle and milk of sheep with fat of lambs, rams born in Bashan and he goats

With wheat as fat as kidneys; and you would drink blood of grapes like delicious wine.

 

Onkelos interprets these two psukim to mean that God will bring the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, enable them to defeat its rulers and enjoy the lavish booty of the conquests.

 

Rashi uses Midrashim to explain how great the Land’s agricultural resources and flourishing livestock are.

 

Rashi brings the Misrash from Sifrei to interpret “vayochal tnuvat sadai”, “have him eat the produce of the fields”. According to Sifrei, these words refer specifically to the fruit of the Land of Israel which develop and ripen quicker than the fruit of any other lands.

 

The word “tnuva” in Modern Hebrew means yield, produce or crop. The company, Tnuva is the largest dairy products manufacturer in Israel. Tnuva has now also branched out into the meat and pastry markets as well.

 

When we look at the products that are available in Israel today, we see the words from the song in Parshat Haazinu come alive- honey, olives, oil, butter, milk, meat, wheat and wine.

 

Sforno adds that the true blessing will be that one will not even need to work hard in order to grow great produce as it says in Yehoshua 24:13, “…vineyards and olive yards which you did not plant, you do eat.”

 

How great would it be if we could have all of this great produce and not even have to work hard for it?

 

 

 
Did God Find Us in the Desert? Print E-mail
Friday, 25 September 2009

Sponsored by Vicky Wu in memory of JJ Greenberg, whose blessed memory has given many Jews and Israelis strength to continue to love life and each other, and to pursue truth.

As Ramban describes it, Parshat Ha’azinu is a song that plainly tells us all that will befall us, opening first by describing the kindness God bestowed on us since He chose us for His people, followed by a record of his bounty towards us in the wilderness and how He disinherited mighty nations for us.  

Devarim 32:10 states: “Yimtzaehu bieretz midbar…”, “He found them in a wilderness country…”

What does this mean? Did God “find” B’nai Yisrael in the desert? Wasn’t God protecting them the whole time starting from the Exodus from Egypt?

According to Rashbam, God didn’t literally find us in the desert. Rather, he made provisions for B’nai Yisrael.

The Netziv says that God took care of them by giving them food and water, a place to live, values and safety from dangerous creatures.

Just as God watched over and took care of B’nai Yisrael in the desert, we hope and pray that God will continue to protect us and ensure that every human being will always have enough food and water, a roof over their heads, moral values and safety from all danger and inscribe us all in the Book of Life.

  
 
Bringing The Final Redemption Closer Print E-mail
Wednesday, 27 September 2006

DEDICATED BY DR. LEAH DAVIDSON IN MEMORY OF HER FATHER, ISRAEL ZYGIELBAUM WHOSE YAHRZEIT IS ON SHABBAT SHUVA. ALSO DEDICATED IN MEMORY OF THE OTHER HONORED MEMBERS OF THE ZYGIELBOJM FAMILY WHO PERISHED IN THE HOLOCAUST

Most of Parshat Ha'azinu is a song sung by Moshe. In the song, Moshe called on heaven and earth to bear witness to the calamities that will befall Israel if it sins as well as the joy that will come with the final redemption.

According to Sforno, after Moshe gave an overview to his song, where he declared the righteousness of God, he described five historical themes:

1. When God created the world he wanted to include all of the nations in achieving his goal. When the other nations didn't cooperate, God chose Israel to fulfill his mission.

2. God gave the Jewish people the Land of Israel to serve Him. However, they ungratefully rebelled.

3. The Jewish people deserved a severe punishment, to be destroyed. However, God was merciful and exiled them because he wanted to prevent the case of a Chilul HaShem (desecration of God's name).

4. In the end of days, the Jewish people will again be redeemed.

5. Moshe described the final redemption and how the enemies of Israel will be punished.

Moshe ends the song with the words: (Devarim 32:43) "O nations- sing the praises of His people, for he will avenge the blood of His servants, He will bring retribution upon his foes, and he will appease His land, his people (vichiper admato amo)."

In the word "vichiper", we see the root "kapara", atonement (same root as Yom Kippur and Kaparot).

According to Sforno, in the final redemption, when the Jewish people return to the Land of Israel from exile, they will be forgiven for whatever wrongdoings they committed pertaining to Chilul HaShem. They will have suffered enough in exile. God will restore the Shechina (Divine presence) to the nation of Israel in the land of Israel.

According to religious Zionist thought, we are now in the period of "Reishit Tzmichat Geulateinu", the first flowerings of our redemption. After suffering in the exile, many Jews have returned to the land of Israel and built up the State of Israel as we know it today.

Let's pray that the full redemption will take place speedily in our day and that a true Kiddush HaShem (Sactification of God's name) will take place in Israel and throughout the world.

 
On the Wings of Eagles Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 December 2005

SPONSORED BY AN ANONYMOUS DONOR

There is much to learn from the poetic imagery in Parshat Ha'azinu. The image that particularly stands out is that of the nesher, eagle. The eagle which is one of the toughest of birds shows its more gentle side while parenting its young.

In Dvarim 32:11 it says: "Like an eagle who rouses his nest, fluttering over his young, He extends His wings, grasps them, He bears them on His wing."

Rashi comments that God used compassion and sympathy when dealing with the Jewish people in the same way that the eagle is compassionate with his children. The eagle does not enter his nest suddenly. Rather, he makes noise from afar in order to rouse his children so that they will be capable of receiving him. He flutters over his young, but does not press himself on them. He hovers, touching yet not touching. God acted the same way when He gave the Jewish people the Torah. He didn't use full power. He didn't want to scare them.

Rashi continues his commentary: The eagle extending his wings and grasping them refers to the eagle transporting its young not grasping them with his feet like the other birds (which fear the eagle who soars above them). The eagle only fears the arrow of man and therefore carries his children on his wings saying .Better let the arrow enter me and not enter my children". So too God carried the Jewish people (Shmot 19:4) "al kanfei nesharim", "on the wings of eagles".

Rashi concludes: When the Egyptians pursued them and overtook them at the sea, the Egyptians propelled arrows and projectiles at the Jewish people. Immediately, God protected them. As it says in Shmot 14:19-20: "The angel of God moved from its position when it traveled in front of the camp of Israel and went behind them. The pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and stood behind them. It came between the Egyptian camp and the camp of Yisrael..."

Since the founding of the State of Israel, we are again conscious of the image of the eagle protecting its young. In 1949-1950 when 50,000 Jews were airlifted from Yemen, the Biblical phrase al kanfei nesharim was used to describe the airlift (It was also called Operation Magic Carpet which invokes images of Aladdin rather than the Torah.) As each airlift brought Jews emigrating from different countries such as Russia and Ethiopia to Israel, the term al kanfei nesharim was used again.

Over the past few years through the efforts of Nefesh B'Nefesh, we have seen full planes of North Americans arriving in Israel. I was fortunate enough to make Aliya on one of those flights last year. I truly felt that I was being lifted al kanfei nesharim.