Sedra: Nitzavim – Ha’azinu

Sedra: Nitzavim – Ha’azinu

With Rabbi Moshe Mayerfield.

Words take on a whole new dimension when they are put to music. Songs evoke powerful emotion that can have an everlasting impact.

Plato said: “Every heart sings a song.” Ha’azinu is Moses’ swansong. We are listening to hopes and dreams of 40 years of the desert journey. He serenades us with a passionate longing for a safe arrival to the land of Israel and a heartfelt prayer for Israel to achieve its potential for greatness and morality: “My teachings drop like rain, my messages flow like dew”.

The medieval French commentator Rashi draws our attention to the difference between rain and dew. While everyone finds dew pleasing, rain is often an annoyance. (He clearly knew about the British summer!). Water is often used as a metaphor for the Torah’s wisdom. The reference to rain seems somewhat redundant. Why not just use the more inclusive comparison of dew?

This teaches us an important lesson about the need for balance in our spiritual life. Rain isn’t always so pleasant, but it causes great growth. Dew is simple and pleasing but only maintains that which already exists.

In a few days’ time, on Yom Kippur, we will read how the high priest is permitted to enter the Holy of Holies only once a year, on Yom Kippur.

One would think if this is such a holy place, we should allow him to have access whenever a spiritual high is desired. Alas, the Torah says, “You cannot enter the inner sanctuary at all times.” There is a time for spiritual peaks and a time to have the calm maintenance of life. If you didn’t know better and you looked at an echocardiogram, you would think that the patient was in real trouble. The monitor beeping, bouncing up and down! Whereas, if you saw a flat line you would think all was calm and fine.

The Torah is teaching us that the combination of the highs and the lows, the duality of these phenomena is necessary to succeed in anything. Aristotle says: “For both excessive and insufficient exercise destroy one’s strength, whereas the right balance produces, increases and preserves it. This much then, is clear. In all our conduct, it is the mean that is to be commended.”

The message of the Torah is clear and harmonious. Keep the balance. Challenge yourself harder than you think possible, then allow the growth to become part of who you are. You will see the tune of life help you in all of your endeavours and you’ll be “singing in the rain!” Shabbat Shalom.

• Rabbi Moshe Mayerfeld is the Aish UK Director. Twitter: @mmayerfeld

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