Shabbat Shalom Dear Readers Parshat Ha’azinu 5775

September 25, 2015

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Following is an edited and adapted version of a post that appeared previously on Globe Tribune.Info

This week, Parshat Ha’azinu, candle lighting will be at 6:30PM in Brooklyn. Chabad.org has the times for candle lighting in your location. Candle lighting is 18 minutes before sunset, at which time all Shabbat restrictions apply. In addition to Chabad.org, Aish.com also has articles that can be printed out before Shabbat and read on Shabbat.

This week, Chabad.org has an article on the power of speech titled” What I Would Say If I Could Speak . . . .” What makes this article out of the ordinary is that it is by a rabbi who has Lou Gehrig’s disease, which gradually deprives those who suffer from it of all ability to move. Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz wrote this, and many other articles with movements of his eyes, which are the only means he has left to communicate with his family and the world at large.

Aish.com has an article about Whitey Bulger, a serial killer who killed for the mafia in Boston. The article states in part as follows.

“No one is absolutely evil, incapable of behaving with kindness or decency. Not Whitey Bulger. Not Charles Manson. Not Jeffrey Dahmer. Not the worst murderer or rapist or torturer.”

On the surface, this statement sounds wishful and naive. But even the most depraved individuals have flashes of kindness and islands of compassion amidst their sea of cruelties. Reflecting upon such troubling contrasts, one is reminded of a city torn by civil war, in which some lone snipers hold out against surrender to the enemy. People like Hitler, Stalin and serial killers can be seen as having surrendered to evil, or to have even “gone over to the enemy”.

On a deeper level, the idea that everyone has a spark of good is profoundly challenging. If there is a war between good and evil in the world, then there is always the possibility of being taken prisoner. In Nazi Germany and in Soviet Russia, how many good citizens made compromises with evil that they are ashamed to contemplate in better times?

At the end of the day, how many moments of our lives will make us blush with shame?

The central feature of this week’s Torah reading of Haazinu (“Listen In”) is a 70 line song delivered by Moshe on the last day of his life on earth

In the song, Moshe calls heaven and earth as witnesses to the words of the Torah.

(“Remember the days of old / Consider the years of many generations / Ask your father, and he will recount it to you / Your elders, and they will tell you” how G‑d “found them in a desert land,” made them a people, chose them as His own, and bequeathed them a bountiful land.”

The song does not simply recount the history the Jewish people had lived through up until that time but also derives lessons from it. The song also cautions against the pitfalls of wealth. (“Yeshurun grew fat and kicked / You have grown fat, thick and rotund / He forsook G‑d who made him / And spurned the Rock of his salvation”)

The song also deals with the calamities that happen when people turn away from the paths of the Torah. In many cases, it seems that when people forsake following G-d’s path and turn themselves into idols, that they become a scourge upon the earth and all who live on it. In many cases, the question is not “Where was G-d?’ but “Where are we”?

At the end of his life, Moshe sees the land of Israel from the distance, knowing full well that he was not going to set foot in it. It is hard not to think of the saintly leaders of the Jewish people who were not able themselves to enter the land of Israel.

Sunday night, a day after Shabbat departs, will be the start of Sukkot. Concerning this, there will be a posting on Sunday morning.

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