Shabbat October 12, 2019, Ha’azinu, Torah Reading , Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52

This week’s parasha, Haazinu, is one of two places in the Torah where
a portion of the text is presented as a song. Most of the parasha
(verses 1- 43) consists of a poem known as the Song of Moses. It is
presented as being spoken by Moses to all the people. Joshua
accompanies him as he speaks, a visual reminder that leadership is
being handed from Moses to Joshua. In last week’s parasha, Vayelech,
there is a reference to Moses teaching the people shira hazot – this
song – under G-d’s direction. According to Rashi, the song referenced
is the Song of Moses in this week’s reading.

The content of the Song is material that has been covered elsewhere in
Torah and in the prophetic writings: G-d’s nature and uniqueness, G-
d’s love for the people, G-d’s anger when the people worship idols, G-
d’s forgiveness when they repent, G-d’s vengeance on their enemies.
The Song is clearly identifiable as poetry, both visually and in its
content. In the Torah scroll The Song of Moses is written in two
columns, showing where there are line breaks. The language is
figurative and distinct in both vocabulary and images from the rest of
Deuteronomy. It sounds much more like prophetic writing. Some
scholars ascribe the poem to the prophet Samuel and believe it was a
later insertion into the book of Deuteronomy.

Haftarah II Samuel 22:1-51

The haftarah for Haazinu is also a song. It is taken from the Second
Book of Samuel, near the end of the book and the end of King David’s
life. It is a song said to be composed and sung by David, recalling
G-d’s deliverance of him from his enemies and from Saul.

The connection between the Torah reading and haftarah is obvious.
Both are presented as songs sung by a great leader at the end of his
life. Both praise and thank G-d, using similar metaphors and words.
Both focus on the power of G-d and the great deeds G-d grants those
whom G-d favors, as well as the danger of provoking G-d’s anger.
Michael Fishbane says that the two songs “reflect a common theology of
G-d as a mighty and sustaining power, whose way is tamim (perfect).”

The differences, though, are equally striking. Moses’ song is
addressed to the People, reminding them of all G-d has done for them
and warning them against rebellion. In keeping with Moses’ humble
persona, the song is all about G-d and the Israelites, not about
Moses’ role in their deliverance.

By contrast, David’s song is addressed to G-d and it is as much about
David as it is about G-d. It praises David as much as it does G-d.
Sort of the anti-Moses of Jewish heroes, David is never humble and
never loses a chance to toot his own horn. The song describes David’s
righteousness and worthiness repeatedly. G-d is credited with giving
David strength, but he points out that G-d did so because David was so
deserving. The song is a paean to G-d’s power and deliverance, but
one that emphasizes the individual benefiting from that power.

Moses’ song is about the relationship – good and bad – between G-d and
the Israelite people. David’s is about the relationship between G-d
and David, and it’s always good.

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