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Torah: Ha’Azinu

Ha’Azinu: Our Torah reading begins, “Give ear, O heavens, let me speak; Let the earth hear the words that I utter!” The reference to the heavens and earth listening are only metaphors. Paganism believed that nature in all its parts was alive. Spirits possessed trees and lakes and the sky. Those spirits were fickle and demanded bribes. Priests offered incantations to those unpredictable forces enabling protection.

The Biblical writers rejected the belief in those foreboding, independent powers. Heaven and earth signify a moment of importance that transcends the limited lifespan of a human being. Moses’ poetic words conclude with the statement by God, “You may view the land from a distance, but you shall not enter it- the land that I am giving to the Israelite people.” As we chant these words, we are reminded of Moses’ achievement: words that like the heavens and the earth are steady and enduring.