A PREVIEW OF WHAT WE CAN
EXPECT TO LEARN ABOUT HA’AZINU*
Why a prologue? Why not plunge straight into the book?
Here is why. Most of us know hardly anything about Ha’azinu, and if you are going to read a book, you must, at the very least have some idea of where you might be heading. Without at least the beginnings of a solid appreciation for the precious gift that we are about to unwrap, this book is going to bore you to tears. We have reams of questions that we are going to ask. Why should you care? We have some really exciting answers that we will offer. ���What else is new?���
Maybe I am misjudging you. Maybe you are reasonably familiar with Ha’azinu. Why not take a test! Take a clean sheet of paper; pick up a pen and start writing. How far will you get? I am not trying to make you feel guilty. You are in good company. This gift that the Ribono shel Olam gave us wrapped in so much love and caring seems, for practical purposes, to have been shunted aside. Nobody seems to care about it very much. And, if the truth be told, after struggling with Ha’azinu for almost a year, I have no really good explanation for this apparent disregard. One thing though, I do know. It is not because Ha’azinu has nothing of significance to tell us.
A major piece of Yiddishkeit seems to have slipped away from us. We are missing things that live at the very center of informed Judaism.
So now we know why we need a prologue.
Let us start with the basics. Ha���azinu is written in the form of a poem; the Torah calls it a ש����. Now ש���� is a feminine noun; the masculine form would be ש��. That form is also familiar to us from, for example, �������� ש�� �������� ש��ׁ.
There is a difference. Tosafos to Pesachim 116b quotes a Mechilta: ���� ��ש����ׁ ��ש���� �������� ����׀ ��ש���� ����עׁ���� ����ש���� ���� �������� ש���������� ��ש ���� ע �������� ��ף ���� ����װ���� ��ש ���������� ע ����׀ ����עׁ���� ש������ �������� ע, Ordinary songs of jubilation are called ש����, in the feminine form, because just as women have pain during childbirth and expect more pain in future births, so too do we expect pain to return to us once the present salvation has passed into history. Only the song of the future, when Moshiach will have come and there will be no more pain, will be described by the masculine ש��.
Let us word it this way. In English we think of anthems and of lullabies, two very different genres. The anthem celebrates power and, sometimes, victory. For us there are no anthems that are ultimately meaningful until Moshiach will have come. The lullaby celebrates a presence. The child feels snug and secure. Mummy is here, and will drive away the terrors of the night. No doubt the future is always uncertain, but for now things are in control.
Of course Ha’azinu can be viewed as a lullaby only in the world of mashal. But, for all that, it is not a bad mashal. The theme of Ha’azinu, as we will develop it in the body of the book, is that ���� ������ ����װ�� ����ק������ ���� ������ ������. It is meant to be an earnest of ������ׁ ����������, a time in which we will know of only �������� ������������, never of �������� ������ׁ.
Please come along; we have important work ahead of us.
HA���AZINU ��� A ���LULLABY��� AS WE HAVE DEFINED IT
*Note: Original Hebrew and Aramaic text which appears in the book has been translated into English and footnotes have been removed for brevity.