Parshas Haazinu: Hearing The Voice of Hashem
This week’s parsha, Parshas Haazinu, begins as Moshe calls upon the heavens and earth to bear witness, and to hear, the words that he will say to the Bnei Yisrael.
הַאֲזִינוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם, וַאֲדַבֵּרָה; וְתִשְׁמַע הָאָרֶץ, אִמְרֵי-פִי - Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and may the earth hear the words of my mouth (Devarim 32:1).
What is Shirat Ha’azinu, this song of Ha’azinu? It is an indictment of the sins of the nation, a prophecy of their punishment, and a promise of God's ultimate redemption that will come. As part of Shirat Ha’azinu, the pasuk tells us: בְּהַנְחֵל עֶלְיוֹן גּוֹיִם, בְּהַפְרִידוֹ בְּנֵי אָדָם; יַצֵּב גְּבֻלֹת עַמִּים, לְמִסְפַּר בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל - When the Most High gave nations their lot, when He separated the sons of man, He set up the boundaries of peoples according to the number of the children of Israel (ibid, v.8).
What is the meaning behind these words: He set up the boundaries of nations according to the number of the children of Israel? What do the borders and boundaries of the nations of the world have to do with the Bnei Yisrael?
R’ Shlomo Zalman Bregman, in his Short and Sweet on the Parsha (p.523-524, Feldheim), offers an important and relevant answer. He writes, “The mystical sefarim suggest that this pasuk contains a hint to the seventy root nations of the world. Everything that happens to them is actually for the benefit of Klal Yisrael. Hashem ‘set the borders of the peoples’ - including natural disasters and political events - according to the needs of the Jewish people and their adherence to the Torah.
“This was not always the case. The Gemara (Pesachim 118a) explains that in the twenty-six generations between the time Hashem created the world and Matan Torah, Hashem kept the world going as a function of His chessed. In fact, this is why the phrase כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ (For His kindness is eternal) is found twenty-six times in Tehilim 136! However, after Matan Torah, the way the nations of the world will go is dependent upon the behavior of Klal Yisrael and their allegiance to Torah.
“Chazal (Yevamos 63a and Rashi there), along with the Drashos HaRan (8), speak about many of these concepts. They write that misfortune comes to the world only because of Klal Yisrael. Sometimes things happen in a remote part of the world - perhaps in a faraway island - in order to awaken the Jewish people to the need for repentance, teshuva. It is Hashem’s desire at that time that we experience fear and terror and proceed to improve our ways, so that calamity should not reach us as well, R”L (may the Merciful One save us).
“This concept is alluded to in Tzefaniah 3:6-7: ‘I have eliminated nations, their towers have become desolate; I have destroyed their streets without passerby; their cities have become ruins, without people, so there is no inhabitant. I said, אַךְ-תִּירְאִי אוֹתִי, תִּקְחִי מוּסָר, just fear Me, accept My chastisement…’”
R’ Bregman concludes by noting that, “Chazal (Chagigah 12b) teach us: ‘Woe to those people who see but do not realize what they are seeing!’ It would be a pity for so much upheaval to take place in the world if Klal Yisrael would fail to take heed or derive the proper lessons!”
How true are these words as we look at the world this past year and a half. From the COVID pandemic that began far, far away in a distant land, to the natural disasters, such as forest fires and floods, to political turmoil and chaos and upheaval the world over, to the recent disastrous and catastrophic American pull-out from Afghanistan… we may be inclined to look at the world and its goings-on, and think, well I am safe here in my land, my country, my community, my town, those goings-on have nothing to do with me… Nothing could be farther from the truth!
יַצֵּב גְּבֻלֹת עַמִּים, לְמִסְפַּר בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל - Hashem establishes the borders of nations, according to the number of the Children of Israel.
Everything that unfolds on the world stage has a lesson for us, and ultimately, will affect us. We must heed the call of G-d when His voice thunders around the world!
קוֹל-ה’ בַּכֹּחַ; קוֹל ה’, בֶּהָדָר - The voice of Hashem is in strength; the voice of Hashem is in beauty; ק֣וֹל ה’ שֹׁבֵ֣ר אֲרָזִ֑ים וַיְשַׁבֵּ֥ר ה’ אֶת־אַרְזֵ֥י הַלְּבָנֽוֹן - The voice of Hashem breaks the cedars, yea, Hashem breaks the cedars of Lebanon (Tehillim 29:4-5).
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the Rav, zt’l, teaches, “The Jew is involved in (world) events which at the outset seem to have no relevance to him… There are no neutral events in human history which the Jew may dismiss as irrelevant. The Jew is totally involved in all events and in all major struggles. Even now, the future welfare of the Jew is dependent upon the outcome of the titanic struggle between East and West. Even the final redemption of our people will be precipitated by the apocalyptic battle between Gog and Magog. Providence involves the Jew in great events. Willy nilly, the Jew plays his part on the universal historic stage” (Megillat Esther Mesorat haRav, p.56).
As Moshe Rabbeinu departs from his beloved nation, he leaves us with many truisms and final lessons. The lesson of our place and stature in the world, and vis à vis the world events specifically, is a lesson we would do well to remember. The borders and boundaries of the nations are set according to the numbers of the Children of Israel. Let us take heed of the voice of Hashem as it is heard around the world, and recommit ourselves to living a life of Torah and mitzvos.
ה’ לַמַּבּ֣וּל יָשָׁ֑ב וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב ה’ מֶ֣לֶךְ לְעוֹלָֽם - Hashem sat [enthroned] at the flood; Hashem sat as King forever; ה’ עֹ֖ז לְעַמּ֣וֹ יִתֵּ֑ן ה’ יְבָרֵ֖ךְ אֶת־עַמּ֣וֹ בַשָּׁלֽוֹם - Hashem shall grant strength to His people; Hashem shall bless His people with peace (Tehillim 29:10-11).
בברכת גמר וחתימה טובה ושבת שלום