Parshios Haazinu & Elul / Rosh Hashanah
The Essence of Jewish History
The special nature and all of the events of Jewish history are outlined for
us in this week’s parsha. Ramban in the 13th century comments that anyone
who can, so many centuries earlier, accurately foretell the later fate of a
people is an exceptional prophet. Moshe certainly fits that description and
test. And what more can we add to this phenomenon, now seven hundred-fifty
years after Ramban!
The rabbis of the Talmud attributed the crown of wisdom to the one who has a
vision of the future. Even though Moshe is the greatest of all prophets, his
title amongst the Jewish people is Moshe the teacher, indicating his wisdom
and knowledge are translated into his ability to view the future.
Moshe lays down the basic pattern of all of Jewish history – the struggle to
remain Jewish and not succumb to the blandishments of current cultures and
beliefs, the illogical and almost pathological enmity of the world to
Judaism and the Jewish people, the awful price paid by Jews throughout
history and the eventual realization of Jews, and the non-Jewish world as
well, of God’s guidance in history and human life.
This entire, very complex story is foretold to us in this week’s most
remarkable parsha. It is no wonder that Jewish tradition dictated that
Jewish children should commit this parsha to memory, for within it is
recorded the entire essence of Jewish history.
Though we never really know the exact details of the future of the Jewish
people, the broad outlines of the story have been known to us for millennia.
Just read and study the words of this parsha.
Moshe establishes heaven and earth as witnesses to the covenant and the
historical fate of the Jewish people. Rashi explains that not only are they
honest and objective witnesses but most importantly they are eternal
witnesses. Human witnesses are mortal and passing. Later generations cannot
hear their testimony, and even though current video technology attempts to
correct this deficiency, much of the personal nuance and force, which colors
all human testimony, is lost.
So we rely on heaven and earth to reinforce our belief and commitment to the
eternal covenant. It is the very wonders and mysteries of nature itself that
point to the Creator. And it is all of human history that rises to testify
as to the uniqueness of the Jewish story and the special role that the
Jewish people played and continue to play in human events.
The witness testimony of heaven is found in the wonders of the natural
world. The witness testimony of earth is found in the history of humankind
and of the role of the Jewish people in that amazing, exhilarating and yet
depressing story. Moshe begs of us to listen to these two witnesses for it
is within their and our ability to know our past and future through their
Much of their testimony is frightening and worrisome but it is even more
frightening to be unaware of our past and future. We should listen carefully
to the parsha. It has much to teach us about our world and ourselves.
Rabbi Berel Wein