Points to Ponder
האזינו Haazinu – Rav Schachter Shlita would always remind us that when we read Haazinu, the Gemara at the end of Rosh Hashana reminds us that we should read it the way they did in the Beis HaMikdash. In the Beis Hamikdash they would read one of the six sections of Haazinu symbolized and broken into six sections called HaZiv Lach. We also only pause at the sections of HaZiv Lach. There are 2 separate positions as to what HaZiv Lach stops are and we follow Rashi who has one set of divisions while the Italian nusach had a different style (Rav Schachter Shlita added that this is why the stops we have do not correspond to the Soncino stops which are based on the Italian). The Rema adds that one does not need to be particular about the stops on Mondays and Thursdays for these are not the times that we read the entire section but Rav Soloveitchik ztl. disagreed and felt that we are not allowed to stop in a place that Moshe himself did not stop. Accordingly, the laining in the places that followed his minhag were much longer as they too, needed to correspond to the HaZiv Lach standard.
הלה' תגמלו זאת עם נבל ולא חכםIs this how you repay the Lord, you disgraceful, unwise people?! (32:6) – Being a Naval is worse than just not having knowledge. Why not say, without knowledge and then state Naval? The Chofetz Chaim explained that a Naval does an Avaira but someone who is Lo Chacham wastes the entirety of life not recognizing that once life is over, there is no longer any possibility of collecting reward.
שאל אביך ויגדך זקינך ויאמרו לך Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders and they will relate it to you (32:7) – Rav Meir Arik ztl. once explained that a Jewish leader is like a father. After all, we find Elisha referring to Eliyahu as Avi, Avi. The point the possuk is making here is that when you want to ask a Jewish leader a question in terms of selecting the proper path for growth, his job is to guide you with the love of a father. Still, his response should reflect the understanding of the Zekanim of old – it should be within the style utilized by the leaders of previous generations.
יעקב חבל נחלתוYaakov is the rope of his inheritance (32:9) – The Lubavitcher Rebbe ztl. noted that the imagery of the rope utilized here gives rise to the understanding that the individual Jew and the communal collective (symbolized by the reference to Yaakov) are bound to the root of our being in Shomayim. What we do down here has effect on the development of our souls in Heaven. Moreover, what we do and where we go, the Shechina too, is affected as when we are exiled, the Shechina is too, and goes with us there.
ותשכח קאל מכוללך You forgot Hashem who created you (32:18) – How does one forget who created him? Rav Aharon Lichtenstein ztl. explained that the forgetting mentioned here is not of the standard variety. Rather, when a person is aware of God's existence, but he does not follow through with the ramifications of this knowledge; his knowledge of God's existence has no influence on his lifestyle or his day-to-day activities. (For this reason, the idolatry mentioned here is also not of the usual type: the Torah is not talking about someone who serves idols out of a conscious desire to abandon God; rather, it is talking about someone who is completely immersed in material matters – "And Yeshurun grew fat." This draws his attention away from any sort of spiritual reality – "and he kicked.") This person knows that God exists – perhaps he would even profess to believe in Him – but his life is nevertheless considered one of "sacrificing to demons, non-gods." He serves success and prosperity, setting aside no time for developing a spiritual personality. Rav Aharon added that modern man is faced with the problem of the forgetfulness of Ha’azinu. A modern person may be aware of God's existence in the general sense, and if prodded indications of His existence he might be able to shake layers of dust off his faith and answer. However, this shallow knowledge has no impact on his life or his behavior. Although he knows that God exists, he does not act accordingly. He ignores the Torah lifestyle and observance that this knowledge is meant to bring with it. This forgetfulness is especially prevalent, as described in the parasha, in the wake of economic achievement and success, which create the sense that one need not subjugate oneself to God.
אני אמית ואחיה מחצתי ואני ארפאI put to death and I bring to life ; I struck down and I will heal (32:39) – Why do we note that Hashem is our “praise” when we highlight the Refaeinu prayer? Why is this the only instance where we highlight Hashem’s role in the process? Rav Yechezkel Abramsky ztl. noted that when it comes to healing, we can pay lip service but really think that the power is in the hands of the doctor. Therefore the Torah wants us to really get the message that it is Hashem to whom we owe our praise in the healing process.
כי לא דבר ריק הוא מכםFor it is not an empty thing to you (32:47) – Rashi tells us that this means we work on Torah because it gives us life. Additionally, Rashi adds that there is nothing useless in the Torah. As a proof he highlights the fact that when the Torah tells us about Timna, it reminds us that she found it more purposeful to be a concubine to Eisav than be a princess in her own land. Why do we care what Timna thought? Rav Elya Meir Bloch ztl. teaches us that when people respect someone it raises our appreciation for that someone also. If Timna recognized that she held of Avraham, the Torah wants us to know that so we too, can be inspired by her inspiration. Rav Elya Meir adds that this is not only a general statement about her appreciation of Avraham but also how she respected every episode and interaction with him as well. When we see this, we too, become inspired to respect each incident recorded within the Torah about him.