As Yom Kippur falls on Shabbat this year, there is no parsha between Yom Kippur and Succot, so we read Ha’azinu.
Most of the parsha is written in two columns, to represent that Moses calls upon the heavens and the earth to bear
witness to his last song.
The logic in the curious phrase above is that the heavens and the earth will be there for a long time after the human witnesses have died and stand forever to maintain Moses’ words.
When Moses says “give ear, heavens” at the start of the parsha, the Midrash says they fell silent. When we incline our ear to the Torah, then all will remain silent before us and listen when we start to speak words of Torah.
This Shabbat is Shabbat Shuva, when we read the great Haftorah of that name. It is aimed at encouraging us to turn away from our sins and towards mitzvot.
Coming as it does in the Ten Days of Repentance, it is most appropriate for the season that we read this parsha.
Changing our ways and growing as humans requires us to listen – to each other, as we mend our relationships between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and to God, as we face Yom Kippur and try to make ourselves fit and whole Jews again.
When we read the Torah, we hear God’s voice, but the heavens and the earth are silenced for us, too, as they were for Moses. In that silence we can hear the divine dictates of our Holy Law, and can turn towards Him and away from our errors.
Zvi Solomons is rabbi of the Jewish Community of Berkshire (JCoB.org) in Reading