Ha’azinu – Sukkos 5779

RABBI SHAUL RIVKIN

וידבר משה… את דברי השירה הזאת… (דברים לא:ל)

Moshe spoke… the words of this song… (Devarim 31:30)

The weekly cycle of Krias HaTorah is structured to allow Parshas Ha’azinu to be read on the first or second week of the New Year.
What purpose is served as such?
Why is Ha’azinu termed a “Shira”?
Why does Yom Kippur, the day when all sins are rectified, occur after Rosh Hashana, the day of Judgment? Would it not be preferable to have all sins forgiven, and then judge the world for the coming year?
Shira is more than a song of praise. Rather, it is both a recognition of having persevered through a difficult situation with the help of Hashem and a prayer to be able to merit such protection in the future. When Klal Yisrael witnessed the miracle of the drowning of Mitzrayim, they offered “Shira,” which depicted the wiles of their enemies and the triumph of Hashem’s deliverance. When the Emorim were destroyed (Parshas Chukas), “Shira” was sung, describing the diabolical plans for their destruction and the salvation granted.
Sefer Devarim is Moshe Rabbeinu’s final testament to the Jewish People. The entire Sefer discusses both the trials which they experienced in the past forty years and the stark choice between good and evil, both physical and spiritual.
Parshas Nitzavim commences with the exclamation, “You are standing here together as one, to be bonded eternally with Hashem.” This Pasuk presumably foreshadows a more righteous future, one where Klal Yisrael will be faithful to the Torah, reside in Eretz Yisrael, and fulfill their mission of influencing the entire world towards Hashem. Yet as an introduction to this relationship, Moshe continues to discuss and admonish His people for sins which will occur in the future.
This connection serves to unite Klal Yisrael with Hashem. Not only when all is perfect, but even when times are turbulent, they are together, joined in pursuit of a common goal. When Klal Yisrael do not live up to their utopian level, or when Hashem deems it necessary for hardships to occur, we remain His chosen people, and He is our G-d. We are His sheep, and He is our shepherd.
Shiras Ha’azinu is the culmination of Sefer Devarim. It is the ultimate expression of Moshe’s testimony of the unbreakable relationship between Hashem and His people. Creation itself, from the heavens to the earth, is called upon to bear witness to Moshe’s declaration.
Moshe explores the cycle of history. While the rock of Hashem’s precise combination of love tempered with justice remains unchanged, His people, in their human failings, may err. Therefore, proclaims Hashem, I will punish not out of vengeance, but to perfect their character, to enable them to achieve their mission of bringing the entire world to recognize truth.
If the other nations fail to understand this, then they will also be given assistance in comprehending who the master of the world is, His mission to them in aiding Klal Yisrael in performing their task, and the need to impel them to the proper path should they stumble.
Annually, on Rosh Hashana, both this unbreakable bond and our unique mission are proclaimed afresh. Klal Yisrael, under all situations, declares its allegiance to Hashem’s kingship, and prays for the revelation of Hashem’s glory in the entire world.
Once we have accepted the privilege of being Hashem’s children, He proclaims on Yom Kippur, “I have forgiven.” My nation has accepted me, and in turn I accede to them.


RABBI SHMUEL ROTENBERG

The Tur begins Hilchos Sukkah by citing the Pesukim which explain that the Mitzvah of Sukkah was intended for later generations to remember that Hashem gave Bnei Yisrael Sukkos to dwell in when He took them out of Mitzrayim. The Tur questions why the Mitzvah of Sukkah and various other Mitzvos are connected directly with Yetzias Mitzrayim. He answers that Yetzias Mitzrayim was something that Bnei Yisrael saw with their own eyes and heard first hand, and it was an event that is undisputable.
Yetzias Mitzrayim also demonstrates the greatness of Hashem and His ability to control the entire universe. Remembering Yetzias Mitzrayim every day and night, and especially on Pesach where it is commemorated with an entire Haggadah, is a Mitzvah on its own. Yet, Yetzias Mitzrayim is also an integral part of several other Mitzvos, such as Sukkah, Ribbis, and Tefillin.
The Bach asks why the Tur goes out of his way to explain the background of the Mitzvah of Sukkah. The Tur explains that the Torah connects Sukkah with Yetzias Mitzrayim; the Mitzvah of Sukkah commemorates theענני הכבוד, the Clouds of Glory with which Hashem surrounded Klal Yisrael as they traveled in the Midbar to protect them from the extreme weather conditions. The Bach points out that the Tur does not normally discuss the backgrounds of the Mitzvos, for the Tur Is strictly a Halachic authority with regards to Psak and Minhag.
The Bach answers that the Tur holds that since the Torah went out of its way to explain the reasoning of the Mitzvah of Sukkah, למען ידעו דורותיכם (ויקרא כג:מב), “so that you may remember and do all My commandments” (Vayikra 23:42), it is intended for all generations to know that Hashem gave Klal Yisrael the protection of Sukkos and theענני הכבוד. Therefore, the Tur concludes, the Torah is teaching that one does not fulfill the Mitzvah in its entirety without the awareness of the reasoning behind it.
The Bach adds that the Tur has a similar approach to the Mitzvos of Tzitzis and Tefillin. In Hilchos Tzitzis, the Tur states that one should be aware when fulfilling the Mitzvah of Tzitzis that he is wearing Tzitzis because Hashem commanded Bnei Yisrael to wear them, and to remember the Mitzvos and perform them. Similarly, in Hilchos Tefillin, the Tur states that one should be aware when fulfilling the Mitzvah of Tefillin that the Mitzvah is designed to remind the Jewish people of the greatness of Hashem and the miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim.
The Bach concludes that in these three places – Hilchos Sukkah, Tzitzis, and Tefillin – the Tur goes out of his way to give an explanation in a manner that he does not do in any other place in Halacha. Generally, when one performs a Mitzvah according to its Halacha, he is Yotzai even if he is not aware of the reasoning behind the Mitzvah. But with Sukkah, Tzitzis, and Tefillin, where the Torah specifically states the reasoning of the Mitzvos, the Tur feels that one does not fulfill the Mitzvah in its completeness without having the awareness of the reasoning behind the Mitzvos.