Moshe ends the Torah with two distinctive elements – a song, or poem, and a set of blessings.
V’zot Habrachah is an unusual parashah, in that it is never read on Shabbat – only ever on Simchat Torah.
So, our final regular Shabbat Torah reading is Ha’azinu - a poem, a song.
In a poem, you can use fanciful metaphors; you can mix past, present and future. You can show love and passion in ways which eclipse normal speech.
Moshe has spent the whole of his last few weeks admonishing and preparing Bnei Yisrael for both his death and their final ingress into Israel. He has used streams – torrents – of words, trying to reach their minds and thoughts.
Now he wants to reach their hearts and souls.
Rabbi David Kasher suggests that “We read poetry because we sense that there are secrets hidden inside, ideas that cannot be expressed in everyday language. The possibilities for meaning are endless, and we are always chasing after more. We delight in the artistry of word-bending, and we suspect that even the particular form of the poem is telling us something - perhaps something about the poet, perhaps something about ourselves.
Poetry, like Torah, is a “witness to the people,” a witness to our eternal quest for transcendence.”
Or a ‘song’?
As Rabbi Lord Sacks has written (Covenant and Conversation): “Judaism is a religion of words, and yet whenever the language of Judaism aspires to the spiritual it modulates into song, as if the words themselves sought escape from the gravitational pull of finite meanings. Music speaks to something deeper than the mind. If we are to make Torah new in every generation we have to find ways of singing its song a new way. The words never change, but the music does ……………..The Torah is God’s libretto, and we, the Jewish people, are His choir. Collectively we have sung God’s song. We are the performers of His choral symphony. And though, when Jews speak they often argue, when they sing, they sing in harmony, because words are the language of the mind but music is the language of the soul.”
At this time of year, as we focus on endings and beginnings, we hope and pray that, this year, the poetry and music of the Torah will inspire our very souls.