Drash on Parashat Haazinu
Rabbi Adi Cohen
Wellington, New Zealand
"And who by fire, who by water,
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
Who in your merry merry month of May,
Who by very slow decay,
And who shall I say is calling? ...
And who by brave assent, who by accident,
Who in solitude, who in this mirror,
Who by his lady's command, who by his own hand,
Who in mortal chains, who in power,
And who shall I say is calling?"
High Holy Days, special Piutim, the Chazanim are at their best, the ambiance is radiating with K'dusha and the beauty of the biblical poem Haazinu is somehow turning into a special private joy for those who didn't have Jewish overdose and are still coming for Shacharit on Shabbat morning.
Moshe is about to depart from earth. This time he will not be seen for 40 days and nights, he will not be back delivering words of Divine inspiration. Moshe is about to die. He made sure that his successor, Joshua is on top of the situation, that the people are at the borders of the Promised Land, that the religious and the civil constitutions are in place. It is time for last farewells. Moshe is talking to heavens and earth, to the people and to the One above. Moshe is about to give his "last lecture".
While we are dealing with Yom Kippur, and wrestling with a highly figurative theology, it is an opportunity to combine the two together - the High Holy Days liturgy on the one hand and Haazinu on the other - and ask ourselves: "Have we lived a life worth living? Have we lately told the people we love that we love them? Have we shared our dreams with anyone? Have we told our children how proud we are to be their parents? Have we thanked our parents for the tender love and care they gave us?
U'netanei Tokef is a very scary list of many different ways in which one might die. It will happen one day, someday. We all hope that it will not happen soon and yet we are all finite. When the time comes, Will we have the time for our own Haazinu?
Will we be able to say:
"I've lived a life that's full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way
Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out...
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way."
Shabbat Haazinu is the most existential of all Shabbatot. Moshe's voice is echoing from the past, reminding us that the last lecture that we would like to give is a lecture of a person of worth.