Parashas Ha’Azinu

“When I call out the Name of HaShem, ascribe greatness to our G-d.” This calling out, according to the Malbim and Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, is one of Torah. Anyone who keeps the Torah and learns it learns the Name of HaShem. The Divine Presence rests upon him.

A community calling out HaShem’s name, through study and prayer, produces the greatest broadcast of G-d’s greatness. This is the task of the Jewish people, writes the Malbim – to publicize G-d’s sovereignty in the world, to acknowledge that the laws of nature are subject to His will, and that the Torah is the medium for this acknowledgment. Every time we call out His Name, we ascribe greatness to our G-d.

In Parshas Ha’azinu, Moshe calls upon the Heaven and Earth and the Children of Israel to proclaim G-d’s greatness. Though G-d set the laws of nature and rarely interferes with them, He continues to orchestrate the world’s every detail. When we keep the Torah, HaShem dwells in our midst and His supervision becomes obvious. If, however, we do not fulfill the Torah, HaShem does not dwell in our midst and turns His countenance away from us. Subsequently, we do not feel His supervision.

Moshe cries out to Heaven and Earth, “When Israel keeps the Torah, influence them with goodness, with great wonder, until it is obvious to all that even the Laws of nature are in the Hands of HaShem. And if they should forsake the Torah, then it will seem as though there is no supervision from HaShem. It will seem as if only nature is at play.”

Our task is clear: To the extent that we return to Torah learning and Torah living, the closer we will come to a wonderful existence that goes beyond the simple laws of nature. Returning to Torah is realizing our unique Jewish identity. We must proclaim and declare our special relationship with HaShem. We must also take extra care in reciting the blessing before Torah study. The Temple was destroyed because the Jewish people “left My Torah.” How could that be when Torah study was so widespread, the Sages asked? Even though they learned Torah, we are informed, they didn’t learn for the sake of learning. Rather, they learned Torah like any other subject They did not recite a blessing upon learning Torah – proof that the Torah was not important in their eyes. Thus, their learning could not protect them.

Torah study is the declaration of G-d’s Name. We must not learn Torah out of idle curiosity or for intellectual stimulation, but rather to ascribe greatness to the One who created the universe: We must learn Torah as a spiritual pursuit, and in doing so “ascribe greatness to our G-d.’

Rabbi Stuart J. Rosen
Kenesset Israel Torah Center in Sacramento, Califomia

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