Parashat Ha-azinu

Friday, September 25, 2020 /7 Tishrei, 5781
Parashat Ha-azinu Deuteronomy 31:1-31:52

Dear Friends,

Ha-azinu, this week’s Torah portion, is filled with the song of Moses. How do we know it is a song? Like other songs in the Torah, i.e. Shirat Hayam, it breaks the columnar writing of the Torah, into a poetic writing shape. In Craig Taubman’s song, Ha-azinu, he writes his interpretive translation of this beautiful song, sung by Moses, “Listen, o heavens, and I will speak. Listen, o earth, to my words. May my message fall like rain and my speech be like the dew. To Adonai, my God, I sing praises to You. Remember the days, the years gone by… remember be strong… remember be wise. How Israel is one, one with Adonai, o sing a new song, we will sing it to the sky.” What appropriate words, on this Shabbat Shuvah, this Shabbat during these 10 days of Awe and Return.

During this Shabbat, we are focusing on our own relationship with the divine. We are cleansing ourselves of our sins against God, asking for God’s forgiveness, and looking toward this New Year and how we might be more connected to God, our world, and ourselves, if we but sing this same song of praise and dedication, as Moses did as his days of life grew numbered. Imagine if each and every year, we were to sing out to the heavens, the earth, and all who inhabit them, and declare our praises to God, for all of the gifts that God has granted us. Especially in this year, this pandemic year, if we spent time announcing God’s gifts and praises, instead of dwelling on our frustrations of isolation, perhaps we wouldn’t feel as isolated. Perhaps, we would know and recognize that we are not alone… we are never alone. Perhaps, as Taubman states, if we remember to be strong and wise, we can sing a new song and mean it!

In closing, I would like to share a story that happened to me and some of our SPeTY Board members last Sunday, as we joined together at Temple to collect food for Harbor Interfaith Services. As we stood in our parking lot, we listened as our friends at Trinity Lutheran held their first “in person” services since the start of the pandemic, in the street on Broadway (the street that dead-ends into 7th Street, across from the Temple). When Pastor Nathan Hoff, a dear friend of mine and our community, saw us across the street, he asked his entire congregation to turn toward the Temple and yell, “Shanah Tova!” He then poured out words of blessing on our community, as we enter into 5781, concluding with the three-fold priestly benediction, all directed toward Temple Beth El. Finally, we exchanged smiles and waves across the street, in gratitude for our loving neighbors and the symbolic coming together of our Jewish and Christian families, under the cloud of this pandemic.

Indeed, Pastor Hoff had a Ha-azinu moment, asking the heavens and earth, and all within earshot to listen, as we both praised God and recognized our own One-ness with the divine, and at that very moment, with each other. May all of our messages fall like the rain and our speech settle as the dew, as we welcome our new year, our new relationships, our new dedication to God’s earth and ALL who dwell on it, and our new connections that may not have been forged, had we not been thrust into this virtual world.

Shabbat Shalom!
Cantor Ilan Davidson