16 Cheshvan 5782 / Friday, October 22, 2021 | Torah Reading: Vayeira
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Haazinu: Hear Today, Gone Tomorrow    

Haazinu: Hear Today, Gone Tomorrow

The Jewish people may be a tiny nation, but they have great influence on the World Above, which, ultimately, determines the direction of the World Below…



א  הַֽאֲזִ֥ינוּ הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וַֽאֲדַבֵּ֑רָה וְתִשְׁמַ֥ע הָאָ֖רֶץ אִמְרֵי־פִֽי: 


Give ear, Heavens, and I will speak, and listen Earth to the words of my mouth... (Devarim 32:1)
If anyone has the right to poetic license, it is Moshe Rabbeinu. However, as Rashi explains, Moshe, by invoking Heaven and Earth and charging them with the role as witnesses to the covenant between G-d and His people, was being far more than poetic:
"Why did he call Heaven and Earth as witnesses against them? Moshe thought: I am human--tomorrow I shall be dead. If the Jewish people will ever say, "We never accepted this covenant," who will come and refute them? Therefore, he called Heaven and Earth as witnesses against them--witnesses that endure forever." (Rashi)
But when was the last time Heaven and Earth spoke up for or against anyone? Hence, Rashi adds:
"... If they should act worthily, the 'witnesses' can give them their reward: the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will give its increase, and the Heaven, its dew. If they transgress, then the 'hand of the witness might first be against them':  'And He will restrain the Heaven, so there will be no rain, and the earth will not give its increase and you will perish quickly ...' (Devarim 11:17)--through the attacks of other nations." (Rashi)
What Moshe is alluding to is found in the Talmud:
Punishment comes only to the world because of Israel. (Yevamos 63a)
The Nefesh HaChaim spends an entire section to reiterate the same point, bringing in all the relevant sources. The Jewish people may be a tiny nation at any given point in history, having little, if any influence on the World Below. However, by virtue of the special souls they possess, the Jewish people have great influence on the World Above, which, ultimately, determines the direction of the World Below. This is what the second verse is saying:

ב  יַֽעֲרֹ֤ף כַּמָּטָר֙ לִקְחִ֔י תִּזַּ֥ל כַּטַּ֖ל אִמְרָתִ֑י כִּשְׂעִירִ֣ם עֲלֵי־דֶ֔שֶׁא וְכִרְבִיבִ֖ים עֲלֵי־עֵֽשֶׂב: 


 My doctrine shall drop as the rain ... (Devarim 32:2)
"This is what they will testify: In your presence I declared that the Torah which I gave to you is life to the world like the rain." (Rashi)
The fourth section of Nefesh HaChaim explains in great detail why learning Torah is so powerful. Very soon, again, when we begin the Torah all over again, we will be reminded by Rashi that the word "bereishis" actually means "for reishis" (i.e., for Torah, which is called "reishis"--the first), G-d made creation. Furthermore, the Talmud elucidates on the verse:

לא  וַיַּ֤רְא אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֔ה וְהִנֵּה־ט֖וֹב מְאֹ֑ד וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם הַשִּׁשִּֽׁי: 

 And it was evening and it was morning, the sixth day [ha-shishi]. (Bereishis 1:31)
"Ha-shishi ... The letter heh [preceding the word shishi] is extra at the end of the creation process to say that [G-d] made a condition with them (all of creation): If the Jewish people accept the Five Books of Moshe, [then it is good; if not, then you will resort back to null and void]."(Shabbos 88a)
Hence, all of creation rides on the intensity of the relationship between the Jewish people and Torah, because that relationship is indicative of the one between G-d and the Jewish people (since, as the Zohar points out, "taking Torah" is considered "taking G-d"). Yet, how many people learn enough Torah (given the potential personal opportunity to do so)?
This is a very important part of the cheshbon hanefesh (accounting of the soul) that one is supposed to be doing during these days of teshuvah. For, as the Talmud points out:
A person only transgresses when a spirit of insanity enters them. (Sotah 3a)
And nothing works better to keep "insanity" in check than the pristine godly clarity of Torah. And as the Maharshah points out on this section of the Talmud, it is for not properly preparing ourselves against potential sin that we are held accountable on Yom HaDin--the Day of Judgment--and all the days of our lives.

Pinchas Winston is the author of over 95 books on various topics that deal with current issues from a traditional Jewish perspective. He has also written on the weekly Torah reading since 1993, called Perceptions”, as well as on current topics and trends affecting Jewish history, past and present. One of his missions is to make the depth and beauty of the more mystical teachings of Torah understandable and accessible to those who can really benefit from them. Visit his website at thirtysix.org.

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