Friday, October 14, 2005

FOR FRIDAY NIGHT: The Final Teaching (Ha'azinu)


Tishrei 11, 5766 * October 14, 2005


Parshat Ha'azinu and Sukkot

The Final Teaching
- - - - - - - - - -

In his early life, Moses had not been able to speak properly. The many years he spent as a shepherd in the region of the Sinai mountains were a period of solitude, of inner thoughts and inner feelings. At this time Moses was married, and had two children; but in effect he was engrossed with G-d.

Then came the Burning Bush, and G-d's command to him to go to Egypt and lead the Jewish people out of slavery. "I am not a man of words", he protested [1].

G-d sent him his brother Aaron to act as his spokesman. Together they would deal with Pharaoh and communicate with the people. After the drama of the Exodus, in which we see Moses as a leader who brings his people to freedom, came the Giving of the Torah on Sinai. For forty days and nights on the mountain, Moses absorbed the immensity of G-d's Torah.

Now he became a scholar and a teacher, which is how he is primarily thought of by later generations: he is called Moshe Rabbenu, "Moses our Teacher". He dedicated himself to explaining and elaborating the principles of the Torah and how they are to be applied.

We also see Moses as an orator. The Fifth Book of the Torah is called in Hebrew Devarim, "Words". It records the stirring speeches delivered by Moses during the final year of the journey through the Wilderness, before entering the Promised Land.

But in our Sedra [2], approaching the very last days of Moses' life, we hear the final summary of everything he had to say. "Moses finished speaking all these words to the Jewish people. He said to them: Put your hearts into all that I have taught you..." [3].

As explained by the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Schneersohn (d.1950), this expresses a demand which goes beyond ordinary scholarship and beyond oratory. Moses had said all he had to say, he had finished speaking, now something more was required. To some extent it is expressed in the English phrase "taking it to heart". Moses is asking each of us to open our hearts to the Torah and its message. To bond ourselves with the Torah: that we should become one with the Torah and the Torah should be one with us.

This possibility of experiencing the Torah on an inward and personal level expresses our link with Moses the man of feeling. There is a need for knowledge, and for the verbal skills which communicate that knowledge. But we also need to search for the power to feel the warmth of the Torah, to live inwardly with its ideals, to open the door to the heart. This was Moses' final teaching to the Jewish people and to us, the men and women of today [4].

The Succah

On Monday evening (October 17) the festival of Succot begins. The Succah booth represents the booths in which the Jewish people dwelt during their wanderings in the Wilderness. Yet it also signifies the 'Clouds of Glory' which protected the Jewish people at that time and gave them a sense of spiritual closeness to G-d.

Nowadays too, entering the Succah, looking at the leaves of the Succah roof, one feels a bond of connection with G-d. We too are wandering; not in an ordinary Wilderness, but through the centuries. We have suffered terrible storms, but we are still here, protected by G-d. Our goal is not only the physical Land of Israel but a time of true peace when our presence there will be accepted by all. The beautiful Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem. Then our wandering will have ended and through us will come blessing to all families of the earth.


1. Exodus 4:10.
2. Deuteronomy ch.32.
3. Deut. 32:45-6.
4. Based very freely on Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Schneersohn's Likkutei Dibburim, vol.4, p.1476-9.


Are you prepared for Sukkot?

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Wishing you and your family a happy and joyous Holiday!


By Dr. Tali Loewenthal, Director of Chabad Research Unit, London

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