The greater part of the Torah reading of Haazinu consists of a 70-line song delivered
by Moses to the people of Israel on the last day of his life; it truly was his ‘swan song’.
The Parshah concludes with G-d’s instruction to Moses to ascend the summit of Mount Nebo
from which he will see the Promised Land before dying on the mountain. “For you shall see
the land opposite you; but you shall not go there, into the land which I give to the children of
Israel.” For me this is the most tragic Torah tale, that Moses never got to experience the land
he led the Israelites to. The song is called, like the parshah itself, by its first word, ‘haazinu’,
"listen”. The difference between listening and hearing is that we can hear sounds but to
understand them we need to listen. The Lubbabicha Rebbe notes in the parsha that Moses
asks the heaven and earth to serve as witnesses, saying “Ha’azinu hashamayim … V’sishma
ha’aretz, “Listen, O heavens…, and let the earth hear.” Many generations later, the
prophet Isaiah also called upon the heavens and the earth to serve as witnesses. Isiah says
“Shimu shomayim veha’azini eretz”, “Hear O Heavens, and listen, O earth.” So, Moses calls
upon the heavens to listen and earth to hear, while Isiah asks the earth to listen and heavens
to hear. Our Rabbis explain that Moses was on an extremely high level closer to the heavens
than to the earth. When he spoke to the heavens, he said listen, and when he spoke to the
earth, he said hear. Isiah was on a lower level. When he spoke to the heavens from far below,
he said hear, and when he spoke to the earth, he said listen. Haazinu is read around this time
of year when we are compelled to hear the shofar and listen to its message. The blessing over
the shofar is “…blessed are you…who gives us the mitzvah of listening to the sound of the
A little girl wants to tell her mother about the painting she did at nursery which she is proudly
holding. “Mummy?” she says. “Yes,” her mother replies without looking up from her
computer. “Are you listening to me?” asks the girl. “Yes, I am” replies her mother, still not
looking. “But mummy,” the little girls says, “I want you listen with your eyes!”.
At a time when we have to communicate with each other behind a mask or face covering in
many situations, making interactions more challenging, especially for those with hearing
issues, we need to listen with all our senses more than ever. Listening is active and at this
time of the New Year, when our tephillah is amplified, we try to listen to our conscience and
confess to our shortcomings. We listen to the words of the Torah and we listen to the piercing
blasts of shofar. But we are compelled to listen, not just with our ears, but also with our eyes,
our heart, our mind, our complete being.
Wishing the community a safe and easy fast, a sweet and successful New Year, and that all
their prayers are listened to.