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    Keeping the bargain – Ha’azinu

    HaazinuThere are several great poems in the Torah. The two most impressive are the Song of the Sea (Ex. 15) and the Ha’azinu in this week’s reading (Deut. 32).

    Ha’azinu calls upon heaven and earth to witness the words of Moses, echoing a similar call in Isaiah 1:2, the haftarah for Shabbat Chazon. The Ha’azinu poem talks about God – and about man: about the nations – and about Israel.

    God is the Rock, immutable, reliable and just, whilst man is foolish and unworthy. God’s portion is Israel, whom He nursed, supported and believed in, whilst the nations are non-peoples with non-gods. God gave Israel so many blessings – but instead of enjoying the blessings whilst God smiled, they “grew fat and rebelled”. God was vexed with them, and angry – but He would not destroy them, and when others attacked them He came to Israel’s defence.

    All this is spelled out in poetic rhetoric which is part of Moses’s farewell speech to his people. The great leader, about to die, looks back over his career and wonders if it was all worth-while. Such is the feeling of any long-term leader, who wonders whether and how far his efforts have succeeded.

    The relevance of the narrative to this time of the year is that it gives the Jewish people the occasion to look back over the months that have passed and to wonder whether they deserve another lease of life.

    It’s all very well to remind God that He has promised to be with us whatever happens, but there is always the fear that He will say, “You have not kept your part of the bargain – so why should I keep Mine?”

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