The magnificent 44-verse poem comprising the bulk of parshat Haazinu was delivered on the last day of Moses’s life. Calling on the Heavens and Earth as witnesses, he described the tenuous relationship between God and the Israelites, both past and present, forewarning of disastrous consequences should they stray from their steadfast devotion to the Almighty.
Reflecting upon Moses’ life, and especially his 40 years as leader of Bnei Yisrael, we could ask what was his legacy?
From these final words in Haazinu and the last chapters of Deuteronomy, we see a different aspect to Moses. His focus was on the fragile, vulnerable state of this people. At the pinnacle of success, with the 10 commandments in his arms, Moses was chastised by God and told the people had defiled their relationship with the Almighty by creating a surrogate deity.
In response, the Almighty’s wrath burned hot against Bnei Yisrael. Moses was told to stand aside so they might be destroyed. Only his unflinching intervention averted disaster; the nation was given a second chance and an everlasting formula for seeking God’s forgiveness.
At the end of his life, Moses stood on the banks of the Jordan River. The Israelite nation had survived and were about to cross into Canaan, while Moses, their steadfast shepherd, was about to ascend Har HaAvarim to pass from life unto death. It was a poignant transition for both. The words of Haazinu may sound harsh at points, but they remind us good leaders remain focused on a vision until it has been achieved.
- Rabbi Jeff Berger is interfaith advisor for Mitzvah Day. Contact him via RabbiJeffLondon@gmail.com