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לימוד תורה

Parshat Ha'azinu – Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald

The song of Ha'azinu – the song of the eternal covenant between G-d and Israel - is, in a way, the "contract" of the covenant which was made between G-d and Am Israel before they entered the Land.
Parshat Ha'azinu is unique in that the Talmud itself divides it into seven readings. The first six parts are given a "sign" according to the first letter of each part of the song, "HaZIV" and "LaCh." (These are the initials in Hebrew of Ha'azinu, Zechor, Yarkivehu, Vayar, Lu, Ci.) (Talmud Bavli Rosh HaShana 31a, Yerushalmi Megillah 3,7, Beit Yosef Orach Chaim 428,5)
The preface to this "contract" appears in the previous parsha: "And now write yourselves this song and teach it to Bnei Israel. Put it in their mouths so that this song will be a witness to Bnei Israel." (Devarim 31:19) G-d commands us to write the song in a book as a testimony to the covenant between Israel and G-d: "And when many evil troubles will befall him, then this song will testify before him as a witness, because it will not be forgotten by his progeny." (ibid :21) And (we are commanded) to teach it to Bnei Israel, from the written book. (HaEmek Davar 31:19)
Moshe commands the Levites to put the book, with the song of the covenant, next to the ark of G-d's covenant, as an eternal testimony: "Take this Book of the Torah and you will put it next to the ark of the covenant of the Lord your G-d, and it will be there testimony for you."
Moshe assembles all of Am Israel and reads them the song of the covenant from beginning to end: "And Moshe spoke the words of this song to their end to the whole community of Israel. (ibid :30)
Because of the importance of the song of the covenant, it is sung by the Levites every Shabbat at the time of the Mussaf sacrifice. Every Shabbat, one of the six parts is sung ("HaZIV" and "LaCh") and the cycle is repeated. (Talmud Rosh HaShana ibid) And there is a sign for this: "That the Psalm for Shabbat has "Ziv", that is, from Moshe whose face radiated, which is translated "Ziv". (Maharsha on Rosh HaShana ibid). There is an opinion that the Ma'amadot as well read it in weekdays. (Rashash and Tur, Rosh Hashana ibid)
The commentators explained the six parts of this song, each one in its own way. (See Abarbanel and Da'at Mikra) We will also explain that the song comprises a contract of the eternal strategic covenant between G-d and Israel.
The parts of the song "HaZIV" and "LaCh" are the characteristic elements of the contract of the covenant.
The first part (verses 1-6) opens with the "witnesses" to the covenant, "the heavens and the earth." And with the part of the initiator of the covenant – G-d: "When I call upon the name of G-d, attribute greatness to our Lord. The Rock, His doing is perfect…" And denying Him is stupidity and villainy.
The second part (verses 7-12) focuses on the second side to the covenant – Am Israel, which was chosen by G-d and set apart from all other nations: "As G-d's portion is His nation, Yaakov is the tract of His inheritance." And G-d showers His goodness upon the nation: "He surrounds it, makes it wise, fashions it like the pupil of His eye. Like an eagle which wakens its nest and hovers over its offspring, He will spread His wings and take it, (He) will carry it on His wings…"
The third part (13-18) relates to the option of Am Israel's breaking the covenant and betraying G-d and His goodness with foreign gods.
The forth part (19-26) details the sanctions in the contract for breaking the covenant: G-d's "hiding His face" to the point that the nation's existence is endangered.
The fifth part (27-35) describes the strategic benefit of the covenant, in success in dealing with Am Israel's enemies, and the converse, the strategic damage to Am Israel in breaching it. "If only they would be wise and sensible, they would understand their end. How could one chase a thousand and two chase ten thousand, unless their rock sold them and G-d turned them over." And it continues, on the Divine side of the success with Kiddush HaShem, and with its failure, G-d forbid, with Hilul HaShem: "Lest they say: our hand is high, and it was not G- who did all of this."
The sixth part (36-43) shows that the covenant is eternal from G-d's side, and He will never breach it, even when Am Israel doesn't fill all its conditions, and even if He must punish Am Israel harshly.
G-d's strategic covenant with Am Israel is a singular phenomenon, with many effects and different dimensions. It has a spiritual dimension, with a special two-way spiritual connection, and providence at a unique level. There is the obligation to keep the Mitzvot and to go in His ways. However, there is also an existential level, as a strategic covenant, which strengthens the sustainability of the ally – Am Israel, by virtue of the Master of the Covenant – G-d. On a this-worldly level, strategic alliances are a factor of the national security of every nation. And the intensity of their necessity grows in the more the ally is a superpower, with weapons and other means that can deter even the strongest and toughest of enemies. The strategic covenant with G-d is not a conventional pact. It is works absolutely, on the hidden level of reality, and ensures the security of Am Israel in the face of those who plot against us. It doesn't exempt us from taking regular security measures of army and war, tactics and strategy. Nevertheless it differs from a pact between flesh and blood partners, which is by nature prone to betrayal. The covenant with G-d is absolute, He is not an ally that at a time of trial will be revealed as a broken branch which doesn't fulfill its obligations. Like a strategic, existential alliance, it demands faithfulness. An ally has to do all he can to keep it and not lose it, to fulfill all its conditions and not break them, and certainly not to cooperate with an enemy of his ally.
Therefore we have to remember the covenant forever by writing the song and reviewing it every week.

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