In Parshat Haazinu, Moshe ends his farewell speech to the Jewish people, which contained a great deal of rebuke and warning regarding keeping Hashem’s Torah and performing the Mitzvot. The way Moshe chooses to end his speech is with a song. In fact, Moshe’s song makes it into the list of ten famous songs (or “Shirim”) that are found in all of the books of the Torah, Prophets and Writings. Most of the ten famous Shirim are songs sung as a result of salvation that the Jewish people experienced. Examples of this include the Song of the Sea (sung by the Jews after the Reed Sea was split) and the song that Devorah sings after the Jews are saved from Sisera and the army of Jabin (Judges 5-6), etc. The question is–what “saving factor” does Moshe’s song refer to which makes it part of the prestigious grouping of the ten Shirim? And why do we always read this particular parsha on the Shabbat which precedes Yom Kippur, which is known as “Shabbat Shuva–the Shabbat of Repentance”?
It can be no coincidence that Moshe begins his song with the words (32:1) “Hear Heavens and I will speak”. The Malbim (R. Meir Leibush Ben Yechiel Michael) notes that there are two Hebrew words which describe that which is above the Earth. We have the word “Shamayim–Heaven” and the word “Rakeeyah–Firmament”. As to what the difference between the two is, Malbim says that “Firmament” refers to the place where the planets orbit and from where rain and hail fall, whereas “Heaven” refers to a higher place, where all the forces behind these things are found. In other words, Heaven is where all the “causes” exist and Firmament is where the “effects” of those causes are. As to where exactly Heaven stops and Firmament begins, Malbim notes that human beings can exist in the Firmament (even via the use of breathing apparatus) but they cannot exist in Heaven. (Note: there are places in space today where even with a breathing apparatus, a human being cannot exist.) As to what this means to us, Malbim says that “Heaven” represents those things in life that Hashem allows a human being to understand, whereas “Firmament” represents those things that Hashem does not allow a human being’s logic to understand.
In addition, the Midrash on Parshat Haazinu says that when Hashem told Moshe that the Jews must keep His Torah, he used the following analogy; “Look at the Heavens that I created–do they change their measurement? Does the sun rise in the West?” In other words, Hashem was saying that just like the Heavens follow the law of nature that He set for them without changing it to do what they want, so the Jews should listen to his Torah and not change it to do what they want. “Not only that”, says Hashem, “but the Heavens are happy when doing my word”. In other words, the Heavens do not keep to Hashem’s law against their will, they do it out of happiness. The Rabbis glean from this that the Heavens do Hashem’s will out of love, because only if you love someone do you do what they want out of happiness, even if it means refraining from doing what you yourself really want to do.
Thus, Moshe was leaving his people with a two-fold message. One message is that we must come to terms with the fact that we will not always understand why Hashem does what He does. This seems to be more of a problem when things happen that seem to cause us discomfort. But in such a situation, when a person raises his eyes Heavenward to ask “Why, G-d?!”, he should remember that whether we understand or not is not an excuse to stop serving Him. After all, (as the second message teaches us) service of Hashem must come from love. When you loves someone , you do not always have to know “why” he did what he did. If the love is strong, the person trusts that the other is only doing good.
This is the message to take with us on Shabbat Shuvah. As we are about to be sealed in the books of life, health, happiness and peace, we should remember that even when “blips” in those blessings occur which we do not understand, we should continue to serve Hashem out of love.
May Hashem give us the strength to do so in the coming year.
G’mar Chateemah Tova and Shabbat Shalom,