Hebraic Studies - Parashat Ha’azinu

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Parashat Ha’azzinu

 

“Be Strong and of Good Courage”

 

Devarim - Deuteronomy 32:1 to 52.

 

With Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.

“Give ear, ye heavens, and I will speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew; as the small rain upon the tender grass, and as the showers upon the herb. For I will proclaim the name of ; ascribe ye greatness unto our Elohim” Devarim - Deuteronomy 32:1-3 (JPS version of the Torah).

The three verses above are from Davarim and they are directly from this Parsha. And His greatness and love will be beautifully revealed in this study as we look at ourselves as we have come to Rosh HaShanah once more.

A $20 Dollar Note (Bill):

There is an old story that goes as follows: “A rabbi decided for certain reasons to commence his class by holding up a crisp new $20 note (or ‘Bill’ in certain countries) and asked, “Who would like this $20 dollar note?” Of course every single hand in the room shot up. He continued, ‘I am going to give this $20 dollar note to one of you’, he said. ‘But first, I am going to do this’. And, he proceeded to crumple up the $20 dollar note in his hand and said ‘Who wants it now?’ he asked. The hands stayed up. ‘Really?’ he said. ‘Well what if I do this to it? And he dropped the note on the floor and began to grind it all up. He then paused and picked it up and held it up, with it looking very crumpled and somewhat dirty. ‘Well, who wants it now?’ he asked. And again all the hands went straight back up.

‘My friends, the rabbi said ‘you have learned a most valuable lesson. When I started this lesson, this note was worth $20 dollars. And no matter what I did to it, you still wanted it. Because no matter what happened to that note, it did not decrease its value.’

The rabbi went on and explained what this all meant, and why he decides to use this $20 dollar note, etc. He then told the class, ‘The truth is we are that $20 dollar note, for we have been crushed, and crumbled and we have been dropped and ground into the dirt as if we were worthless. Bad decisions or simply hapless circumstances which we were unable to control and make us feel as if we of no value what-so-ever, due to those who were evil in the past. But never forget, no matter what has happened to you, our people, or will happen to you in the future, you will always have value in the eyes of those who love you, especially our Elohim, for we are special!”

did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people for ye were the fewest of all peoples” Devarim - Deuteronomy 7:7 (JPS).

Obviously, if we think about it the aforementioned should really speak to us for many reasons and considering Rosh Hashanah commenced a time of reflection regarding the year that has just passed. Or the year that is yet to come. Thus this past year bears some reflection. For in the past few years we have all seen a great deal of pain and hardship throughout the country as well as throughout the world.

In our previous Parashat we had a very powerful verse, which included a statement that had words that resounded through history right into our own time;

- “Chazak V’ematz” - “Be strong and of good courageDevarim - Deuteronomy 31:7 (JPS).

We all know too well, for there has been a great deal of brokenness during recent years, certainly far more than I can recall than in many, many years. I am sure we have seen people crumpled and ground down with the devastating COVID-19 Pandemic running rampant, then there were the shocking and extreme weather conditions, bush (wild) fires, floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters, wars of the worst kinds possible endangering the entire world.

And there would have been countless other problems more personal nature in our lives, which is getting harder by the day, as the world economy is suffering day after day due to the current world conditions, thanks to Russia’s evils conquest into the Ukraine! Sadly many people have lost their jobs and some seem to have lost hope.

Indeed we have all seen difficult times before but I am always the most optimistic of realists. But somehow, as we enter this Rosh Hashanah, take heart for there is always hope and remember, no matter what we Jews have gone through, and we have gone through more than most, we will always HAVE Elohim assurance of a positive future, even though we have wronged our loving Elohim in the past!

“And I will sanctify My great Name, which hath been profaned among the nations, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the nations shall know that I am , saith the Lord , when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you (Yisrael) from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land … Then the nations that are left round about you shall know that I have builded the ruined places, and planted that which was desolate; I have spoken it, and I will do it. Thus saith the Lord : I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock” Yechezkel - Ezekiel 36:24 - 36-37 (JPS).

And also the following powerful prophecy;

“I remember My covenant with Ya’aqov - Jacob, and also My covenant with Yitzchak - Isaac, and also My covenant with Avraham will I remember; and I will remember the land … And yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break My covenant with them; for I am their Elohim. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their Elohim: I am ” Vayikra - Leviticus 26:42, 44-45 (JPS).

Restless souls tend to yearn for some relief and some sense of validation. But sometimes I am well aware that many are looking in the wrong place. Sometimes I believe the old ways are not always the best ways, as many are turning to the mental health system, when the spiritual is always the better, for the older and more eternal is able to nourish us and allow our souls to blossom, even as we struggle. The problem is we are just not used to asking.

“And Elohim created man in His own image, in the image of Elohim created He him; male and female created He them. And Elohim blessed them” Bereshit - Genesis 1:27-28 (JPS).

But if we are created - “btzelem Elohim”, “in the image of Elohim”, as I believe we are – then a simple truth emerges: we are valued; we are valuable, no matter what. It is not the love of another which validates us. We, each of us are fully deserving by His love! Yes we might well be crumpled, but we will never lose our intrinsic worth. Many years ago I fell chronically ill and today I live in a crumpled body, yet I continue in a completely undiminished spirit, for My Elohim is with me, and even from my wheelchair I am able to share my messages with you!

When we are lost and alone, when feel that no one knows us or loves us; when we are crumpled and torn we doubt our own value: there is a path.

The Psalmist, who knows well the pain of life, tells us about the Holy One, the Elohim, blessed be He, we have always known, and who always knows us:

“He gathereth together the dispersed of Israel; Who healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. He counteth the number of the stars; He giveth them all their names” Tehillim - Psalms 147:2-4 (JPS).

The Psalmist clearly tells us: that we are known, even when we are alone. The innumerable stars are known by the One who our tradition calls “The Holy One Blessed be He” and “” the “Source of Life”.

The world tends to have many images and metaphors to explain of what we cannot directly perceive. But though we think about Elohim, blessed be He, in many ways, I believe that we simply do not think about our beloved Creator Elohim enough.

Why not start with gratitude for what Elohim has done in your life?

Yes, there has been difficult times of late, but think about it, I am sure that you can remember countless happy and memorable events that have occurred in your life!

Remember this; Even when we feel broken, remember that we are always valued, for Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, is always by your side!

When I am felling low, as for me there is one thing I ask of Elohim, for I only seek for my future the following

“One thing have I asked of , that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of all the days of my life, to behold the graciousness of , and to visit early in His Temple” Tehillim - Psalms 27:4 (JPS).

Life is precious and we are finely balanced. Sometimes that balance may be shattered and we tumble and feel lost in the void. But no matter our circumstances, no matter how crumpled and crushed we are, so long as the breath of life is within us, we can give thanks for life. And from that place of gratitude, we can feel the Divine Presence supporting us. Sometimes, even in our pain, our spirits can soar with the breath of life. Elohim gives us life, the most precious gift, and we have value.

I said earlier that “we were special” you might ask, on what grounds do you make that statement? Simple from what our Creator said!

“Ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation” Shemot - Exodus 19:6 (JPS).

Yes, we have made mistakes and we have been punished for them, but we have also read that;

“And yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, neither will I abhor them” Vayikra - Leviticus 26:42:44 (JPS).

As we begin a new year, we reflect on the brokenness of the year that has passed. May Elohim grant us the patience to still the voice of our own despair! May we have the courage to reach out to Holiness and begin to feel whole again. May His embrace remind us that no matter how we are crumpled, we are still valued. And may the New Year of 5768 bring us Healing, Joy and Peace. Omein.

Always remember our motto seen on the logo at the top of this page: “The More Torah, the More Life”, for Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, is the one who gave us our Life!”

Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.

 

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