The Mosaic Farewell

Is there anything more difficult than saying the ultimate goodbye? Not too many years ago, when children embarked on a journey away from their hometown to start a new life, when they said goodbye, it very well could have been forever. Goodbye truly meant farewell. In our times, with Facetime, Zoom, and WhatsApp, we are only a few finger taps away from seeing and communicating with others almost anywhere in the world. However, this is not so when a loved one reaches their final days here on earth. It is then that family and friends come from all ends of the earth to say I love you, thank you, and goodbye. What message should the infirmed loved one impart at that moment?

Moses, himself, was faced with this dilemma and chose to advance the song of Haazinu, the penultimate Parsha of the Torah, and then an individual blessing for each one of the tribes, which is found in the final Parsha Vezot Habracha. A song and a blessing. I understand the blessing, but what is this song?

The song of Haazinu, which appears as a poetic song in the Torah Scroll, is a synopsis of Jewish history whereby the benevolent and all powerful G-d rescues Israel and provides her with a Homeland filled with the richness of milk and honey. However, eventually the nation’s people grow weary and rebel, and are thereby punished and expelled from their land. Generations later when the people of Israel repent, G-d again rescues Israel, and punishes those who persecuted her in the exile.

This song/story has played out continuously over the last two thousand years in Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome until today. We would do well to internalize the song and the lessons therein.

Moses himself implores the nation to embrace the song and imbue it in the hearts and minds of their children.

Deuteronomy 32:46-47

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֲלֵהֶם֙ שִׂ֣ימוּ לְבַבְכֶ֔ם לְכׇ֨ל־הַדְּבָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָנֹכִ֛י מֵעִ֥יד בָּכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם אֲשֶׁ֤ר תְּצַוֻּם֙ אֶת־בְּנֵיכֶ֔ם לִשְׁמֹ֣ר לַעֲשׂ֔וֹת אֶת־כׇּל־דִּבְרֵ֖י הַתּוֹרָ֥ה הַזֹּֽאת׃כִּ֠י לֹֽא־דָבָ֨ר רֵ֥ק הוּא֙ מִכֶּ֔ם כִּי־ה֖וּא חַיֵּיכֶ֑ם וּבַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֗ה תַּאֲרִ֤יכוּ יָמִים֙ עַל־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר אַתֶּ֜ם עֹבְרִ֧ים אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּ֛ן שָׁ֖מָּה לְרִשְׁתָּֽהּ׃ 

He said to them: Take to heart all the words with which I have warned you this day. Enjoin them upon your children, that they may observe faithfully all the terms of this Teaching. For this is not a trifling thing for you: it is your very life; through it you shall long endure on the land that you are to possess upon crossing the Jordan.   

This coming week Jews around the world will dwell in Sukkoth. We will eat, drink, socialize, and study; and some will even sleep in the Sukkah as well. It is a wonderful time to consider and appreciate our own personal journeys, as well as our national journey that has brought us from the time of Moses in the year 2400 to today, 5783.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Epstein
Community Scholar in Residence