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Ha'azinu 5761

Ha'azinu (Deuteronomy 32 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  I hope you had a meaningful and enjoyable Rosh Hashana. On Rosh Hashana we are inscribed, hopefully, in the Book of Life. On Yom Kippur the seal is put on the judgment. In the days between, we must look into ourselves, examine our deeds and correct the mistakes we have made. We need to set ourselves on paths that will utilize our time better to perfect ourselves and the world! Yom Kippur begins Sunday evening, October 8th (Yizkor is on Monday, the 9th).


Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the anniversary of the day Moshe brought down from Mount Sinai the second set of Ten Commandments. This signified that the Almighty forgave the Jewish people for the transgression of the Golden Calf. For all times this day was decreed to be a day of forgiveness for our mistakes. However, this refers to transgressions against the Almighty. Transgressions against our fellow man require us to correct our mistakes and seek forgiveness.

In the prayer service we say the Viduy, a confession, and the Al Chet, a list of transgressions between man and God and between man and man. It is interesting to note two things. First, the transgressions are listed in alphabetical order (in Hebrew). This not only makes a comprehensive list, but gives a framework to include whatever transgression you wish to include under the proper letter.

Secondly, the Viduy and Al Chet are stated in the plural. This teaches us that we are one interwoven people responsible for each other. Even if we did not commit a particular offense, we carry a certain measure of responsibility for those who transgressed -- especially if we could have prevented the transgression.

On Yom Kippur we read the Book of Jonah (i.e. "Jonah and the Whale" -- though, it was a fish and not a whale...). The essence of the story is that God readily accepts the repentance of anyone who sincerely desires to do Teshuva, to return to the Almighty and to the path of the Torah.

There are five prohibitions on Yom Kippur (from before sunset Sunday, October 8th until nighttime-- when the stars come out --Monday evening, October 9th) -- eating, wearing leather shoes, marital relations, anointing the skin with salves and oils, and washing for pleasure.

The essence of these prohibitions is to cause affliction to the body, thus negating it and giving preeminence to the soul. From a Jewish perspective a human being is comprised of a yetzer tov (the desire to do the right thing, which is identified with the soul) and a yetzer hora (the desire to follow your desires, which corresponds with the body). Our challenge in life is to get our bodies in line with the yetzer tov. A comparison is made in the Talmud to a horse (the body) and a rider (the soul). Better to have the rider on top of the horse!

Jewish tradition teaches that on Yom Kippur the yetzer hora, the desire to follow your desires, is dead. If we follow our desires, it is only out of habit. On Yom Kippur we can break our habits! Here are three questions to think about on Yom Kippur:

  1. Am I eating to live or living to eat?
  2. If I'm eating to live, then what am I living for?
  3. What would I like written in my obituary or on my tombstone?

If you know your life goals, it's easier to reach them. May we all be sealed in the Book of Life!

Portion of the Week


The Torah portion is a song, a poem taught to the Jewish people by Moshe. It recounts the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people during the 40 years in the desert. Jewish consciousness, until the present generation, was to teach every Jewish child to memorize Ha'azinu. In this manner we internalized the lessons of our history, especially the futility of rebelling against the Almighty.

The portion ends with Moshe being told to ascend Mount Nevo to see the Promised Land before he dies and is gathered to his people. By the way, this is one of the allusions to an afterlife in the Torah. Moshe died alone and no one knows where he is buried. Therefore, "gathered to his people" has a higher meaning!


Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

A maggid is a public speaker who tells stories and exhorts people to raise their standards of belief and behavior. In Europe they would go from town to town providing a genuine entertainment -- one that gives insights and benefits as opposed to "entertainment" which just distracts and amuses. The Dubner Maggid has an interesting insight into forgetfulness to help understand Moshe's rebuke of the Jewish people in this week's Torah portion, "You were unmindful of the Almighty Who begot you, and your forgot God Who bore you" (Deuteronomy 32:18).

The Dubner Maggid explains the verse with the following parable: Reuven owed Shimon a large sum of money and lacked the necessary funds to repay his debt. His creditor was pestering him very much and he didn't know what to do. He therefore approached his close friend Levi and asked for advice. Levi told him that when Shimon approached him again he should act as if he were totally insane and then Shimon would have to leave him alone.

Following this suggestion, Reuven made all kinds of crazy sounds and movements when he was in the presence of Shimon and it worked well. Shimon left him alone. The next day Reuven asked Levi to lend him a sizable sum of money for a few days. A week later Levi asked Shimon to repay him, but Shimon just acted crazy again. Levi was furious at him and shouted, "I'm the one who gave you the idea to use this method. It's a real chutzpah for you to use that against me!"

The Almighty created forgetfulness as a benefit for people who have suffered in the past. If someone would always clearly remember every bit of suffering that occurred to him, he would find it very difficult to cope. He would not enjoy the positive things in life because of the remembrance of the pain of the past. By forgetting the misfortunes, one can live a happy life even though one has suffered in the past.

However, forgetfulness can also be a very negative trait if one forgets the Almighty and his obligations to Him. This, said the Dubner Maggid, is the message of our verse. The Almighty created forgetfulness (teshias Rashi explains is forgetfulness). He did so for our benefit, unfortunately our ancestors used this to forget Him. We should learn the lesson and not forget the Almighty in our lives!


Jerusalem 4:42   Miami 6:43  New York 6:11
L.A. 6:11  Hong Kong 5:50  Singapore 6:44
Guatemala  5:44  Honolulu   5:56  J'Burg 5:51
Melbourne 7:10  Moscow 5:35  London 6:09
Atlanta 6:56  Toronto 6:30  Montreal 6:06


If you harbor bitterness,
then happiness will dock someplace else.

Dedicated by...

In Loving Memory of
Robert L. Pines
by Beverly S. Bachrach

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