Sedra of the week: Ha’azinu

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Sedra of the week: Ha’azinu

Rabbi Jonathan Tawil looks ahead to this week's portion of the Torah

A torah scroll
A torah scroll

Give ear, O heavens, that I may speak, Earth, hear the sayings of my mouth … The rock (tzur), His acts are perfect, For all his ways are just. (Deut 32:1,4)

Tzur, the word for rock, is rare in the Torah, occurring just three times in the first 52 sedras. But in Ha’azinu, it appears on five occasions and is the first time it refers to God rather than an object. Why?

On a simple level, the Rock implies strength and stability. Moses on the last day of his life reminds the Jewish people that even as human beings are temporal, the Rock – God – can and will always be there to rely upon. 

More deeply, we are taught not to blame God when things go wrong. Moses feels this so passionately. Do not believe, he says, God is there to serve us. We are here to serve Him and through Him be a blessing to the world. God is straight; it is we who are complex and self-deceiving. God is not there to relieve us of responsibility; He is calling us to responsibility.

Rabenu Bechaya says it was at the rock where Moses’ dream died. Even after 515 prayers, he could not enter the land of Israel. Nevertheless, Moses declared that God – the Rock – and His justice is perfect and beyond reproach. 

The word tzur has an etymological resemblance to the word used in man’s formation, vayitzer, and also the word for artistry, tzayar. God formed man like a perfect artist and gave us a stage to fulfil our real potential.  

As we start the new year, God’s artwork has been restored. Let us use this moment to recommit ourselves to illuminating the great canvas known as life with a beautiful self-portrait of our radiant souls.

  •   Rabbi Jonathan Tawil is founder and director of Torah Action Life (TAL), 

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