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Sermon: Parshat Ha'azinu, 10/11/19

10/13/2019 04:33:30 PM


Rabbi Charlie

Shabbat Shalom! This week’s Torah portion is parshat Haazinu, which is made up almost entirely of Shirat Moshe – the Song of Moses. This is a sacred poem that outlines God’s relationship to the Jewish people.

The Song of Moses comes across as quite harsh at times. The message is clear. God is perfect, we are the dull, witless People who played God false. God found us in an empty howling waste and gave us everything. We grew fat and then sacrificed to no gods. God punished us and eventually takes us back. In the process, God will destroy our enemies – God’s arrows drunk with blood and God’s sword devouring flesh.

While the battle imagery may or may not resonate for all of us, in the Torah, Moses recites the poem to all the people and they are instructed to teach it to their children. And that’s when Moses says this: “For this is not a trifling thing for you; it is your very life…” (Deut 32:47).

The idea is that by reciting this poem – remembering our history and our relationship with God, we’ll be able to remember to follow God’s teaching and live a good life. The only problem is that when we listen to this poem today, it doesn’t have a great “hook” as they say in the music industry:

  הַאֲזִ֥ינוּ הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וַאֲדַבֵּ֑רָה וְתִשְׁמַ֥ע הָאָ֖רֶץ אִמְרֵי־פִֽי׃

 (Deu 32:1 WTT)

That just doesn’t stick in our heads as well it used to. But it’s a good idea. We’ve talked about it before – we need reminders. We talked last week about needing a plan of action so we can remember the promises we’ve just made for the new year ahead. We discussed schedules, accountability, support from friends and family and more. Getting reminders from a song… that’s a brilliant idea!  

A song that reminds us who we are and what our Torah tells us that God wants us to do… that’s the kind of reminder we could use. So I thought that I would offer something that would make sense in the 21st century. A melody that had stood the test of time – it’s been around for about fifty years – and new generations continue to enjoy it. I could take that song and incorporate the ideas of Haazinu into such a melody.

I’ll be honest – I didn’t include arrows drunk with blood… you can think of this as a kinder, gentler version of Haazinu – to the tune of Neil Diamond’s, “Sweet Caroline.”


A Kinder, Gentler Haazinu, lyrics by Rabbi Charlie, music by Neil Diamond

When we began… to be the Jewish People
The Torah says God cared for us
But then we stopped
Showing appreciation
God didn’t like that very much

We… angered God
So we turn, time to learn, time to do

Do the mitzvot
And give thanks to God each day
All will be good
If we can live life this way
Or try to…

Sing this great song… you have to know it by heart
You can’t forget what you should do
You have support
We’re all in this together
With all this support we’ll make it through

Read…study this
Time to turn, time to learn, time to do

Do the mitzvot
And give thanks to God each day
All will be good
If we can live life this way
So try to…

Do the mitzvot
And give thanks to God each day
All will be good
If we can live life this way

Ok, yes, it’s a little silly. But the message is straightforward. Follow the path that God and our tradition have put forth. Learn about the mitzvot, our sacred obligations, do those that speak to us and bring meaning and purpose into our lives – even if they are hard or inconvenient. And show appreciation. Don’t take our blessings for granted.

And if you go home and all weekend long you can’t get: “Do the mitzvot…And give thanks for God each day” out of your head – maybe that was the point. Use that as the reminder that it’s supposed to be.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thu, July 9 2020 17 Tammuz 5780