The Rock – perfect is His work, for all His paths are justice.
This is certainly an important statement about Hashem’s ways, but what is it doing here? Parshas Haazinu at its essence is a section of tochecha/rebuke – not of theodicy. Why do we heap praise upon His exquisite sense of justice in the process of dwelling on our misconduct?
There is a parallel to this in our davening. “A person should first order his praise of Hashem and only then pray.” This should not be understood as sweetening the deal by offering a bribe before making requests. We have nothing to “give” to Hashem.
Rather, praise precedes our petitions because it subsumes all that we ask of Him. All of our needs that we lay before Him are but details, ramifications of the midos with which we describe Him. In the shemonah esrei that is the center of our prayer thrice daily, all the requests we make are simply expansions and explanations of what we say about Him in the first berachah. (This is why kavanah during the first berachah is the minimum requirement for fulfilling the mitzvah. All the berachos that follow are already implied by that first berachah.)
For example: the Gra says that the berachah for teshuvah grows out of our description of Hashem in the first berachah as One who is gomel chassadim. It is that aspect of Hashem’s nature that created the concept of teshuvah, and our ability to use it. Our later prayer for teshuvah, therefore, has already been implied in our recitation of the first berachah.
The same can be said for all the berachos in the middle section of the shemonah esrei. They have all been said – albeit in not quite so many words – from the beginning.
We can point to another instance of inclusion-by-implication. “You shall be holy, because I am holy.” This is not just a restatement of the mitzvah of imitating His ways. Rather, it informs us about an identity. Hashem says, “Because I am holy, your need to be holy is implied.” The Sifra says this directly. “If you do not make yourselves holy, it is as if you failed to make Me holy.” Hashem’s kedushah and ours are one; our kedushah is implied by, and included in, His. If we fail to recognize our kedushah, we impugn His!
We are not incorrect in sizing up Haazinu as tochechah. Nonetheless, we praise Hashem’s perfect justice, because that praise includes and implies our rebuke! The madregah of Klal Yisrael is fixed and implied by Hashem’s praiseworthy attributes. So is our rebuke. What greater rebuke can there be than contemplating Hashem’s greatness and praise?
- Based on Daas Torah by Rav Yeruchem Levovitz zt”l, Devarim vol.2 pgs 124-125 ↑
- Devarim 32:4 ↑
- Berachos 32a ↑
- Vayikra 19:2 ↑