The day of returning
Torah Portion: Ha’azinu (Hear) D’Varim (Deut.) 32:1-52
Haftorah Readings: II Samuel 22:1-51
Before we get to the Torah section I would like to remind us all that Yom Kippur begins at sundown tomorrow and ends on Monday evening. As you know, this is the most holy day of G-d’s calendar. I would ask you all to pay attention to this day. It is a day to rededicate your lives to the Father, to clear out any sins that have not been confessed over the years. It is also a time to reflect on all G-d has done for us.
This Torah portion speaks to this from the opening word of Ha’azinu. This word translates in a few different ways. Here it can be looked at as, give ear, or listen closely. It is like a conversation between close friends or a man and wife. Moshe is telling the people to pay particular attention to what he is about to tell them. It is something that deserves to be listened to and acted upon.
Now, on to our portion. I will be giving you a few Hebrew words that I think will help us understand more clearly what Moshe is trying to get across to the people before him and in fact also to us.
In D’Varim/Deut. 32:15 it says, “Jeshurun became fat and kicked. You became fat, you were gross, you were covered with fat. And he abandoned G-d his maker.” Let’s look at the word Jeshurun. This word is used only four times in the Hebrew Bible, with three of those times in our Torah portion. It also appears in Isaiah 44:2. All of these uses refer to the people of Israel. The root of the word is, “yashar.” The word means straight, upright or undivided. It is used to describe a people or an individual who will keep their word, a people who will do the right thing, an honest person.
So, here we see Moshe use this very positive word but then follows it with words like, shamen. This word can mean fat or grossly over-weight. This word is followed by three more words that build on this idea of a person or a people who have let themselves go. Moshe is describing what will be with Israel after they settle in the Land of Israel. Remember, in the desert they were lean and depended on G-d for everything. Now, they are about to enter a land where they will take houses they did not build, vineyards they did not plant. What would happen when they had grown fat? Moshe warns them they will forget their G-d and follow after the gods of the land they are entering. They would abandon the commandments of the Torah and their accountability to G-d. They would follow an easier path of focusing on themselves and their unbridled appetite. They would forget and abandon what G-d had shown them and fully embrace the easy life.
We see later in scripture in Isaiah 2:7-8 the prophet speaks these same words and ideas about the people of his day. The people had become numb to their own situation and allowed their fleshly desires to rule them. In Isaiah 1:3 we read these words, “An ox knows its owner, a donkey its master’s crib: Israel does not know, My people take no thought.” Israel was a people who no longer saw this need for G-d.
On Rosh Hashana, one week ago, the holiday was ushered in by the blast of the shofar. One of the purposes of the blowing of the shofar was to awaken the people, to bring them to the realization, lest they forget who they are, that G-d is still the One in charge of us and this world. It is His will that matters and not what we want. It is to awaken us to the condition of our world, our country, our faith. Have we grown fat? Have we begun to trust or even to worship our leaders, or government? Human greed and rebellion are quickly bringing us personally and as a people to a dangerous place. The only real answer is repentance and turning away from those things that have taken the place of G-d Almighty. Especially during these days and really every day, G-d is calling us to lose weight in a spiritual sense and return to Him as our Provider, our Defender and our Shield.
We do not know the day of the L-rd’s return. We cannot let time just go along with little or no thought of tomorrow. As G-d’s people we are to be busy living our life pursuing righteousness, not material things. It is time for us to lose the weight of the things or people that hold us back spiritually.
“For the L-rd Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet (shofar) of G-d.” I Thessalonians 4:16
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1