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The Torah portion of Ha’azinu consists (mainly) of the song of Ha’azinu in which Moshe predicts the future of the Jewish people.
The commentaries question as to why it is called a song since Ha’azinu contains many passages foretelling the future sins and subsequent punishment for the Jewish people (see Deut. 32:15 and on). They offer several explanations:
·        Sung by the Levites
The Levites would sing this song in the Bait HaMikdash during the sacrifice of the Musaf on Shabbat. They divided it into six sections (as we do) and completed it every six weeks. Since they would accompany it with musical instruments, it is called a song. (Mincha Belula, Parshat VaYelech 31:19, by Rabbi Avraham Menachem HaKohen Rappa of the 16th century, of the city of Port, Italy, the patriarch of the Rappaport family.) Indeed, the fact that each verse is divided into verses indicates that it is meant to be sung.
·        Seeing It
Some suggest that the word shirah in this context doesn’t mean a song at all. Rather, it means a vision (see Numbers 24:7) as this portion is a prophesy about the future of the world (ibid).
·        Like an Orchestra
Rabbi Yechiel Michel Feinstein ob”m (1906 – 2001, Rosh Yeshivat Bait Yehudah in Benei Berak) explains (Be’er Miriam by Rabbi Tzvi Weiss on Parshat Ha’azinu) that just as when an orchestra plays a song, one can only appreciate all of the sounds when they are heard together, so, too, one can only really appreciate the goodness and kindness of G-d in this world if one sees the entire story of mankind. Since this story, as well as the story of the life of every individual, is expressed in this section of Ha’azinu it is appropriately called a song.

In the Flesh

The Kotzker Rebbe said that the song of Ha’azinu is a fine farewell gift that Moshe gave to the Jewish people (גיזעגינען טוב עם ישראל). Reading Ha’azinu brings the Torah into the very flesh of the Jewish people (i.e., it can be absorbed and felt even by the lower aspects of oneself).[1]


As mentioned, the holy sefarim write that the story of every person is alluded to in this song. In addition, the phrases of the song of Ha’azinu allude to all the Torah portions in their correct order. (See Zikaron VaYa’al Eliyahu, pg. 177 and on, for a detailed explanation.)

The Name of the Author

When recording a song, the Torah usually specifies who composed the song. (See Exodus regarding the song of the sea, Numbers regarding the song of the Well of Miriam, Judges 5 regarding the song of Devorah, and Psalm 18 regarding the song of David.) In this case Moshe’s name is not explicit but is alluded to by the gematriyah of the first letters of the first six verses (until Sheini) which equals that of Moshe, 345.[2]
The reason his name is not stated explicitly is because Moshe sang this song just before he passed away. (The lack of an explicit name alludes to his passing when he will not be as “present.”) In addition, Moshe did not want to state his name clearly since the song includes a forecast for some suffering of the Jewish people.

Reciting the Song of Ha’azinu

The Maggid of Mezritch encouraged people to learn the song of Ha’azinu by heart.[3] This is alluded to in the verse (Deut. 31:19, see Rashi that this is referring to the song of Ha’azinu), “And now, write for yourselves this song, and teach it to the Children of Israel, place it into their mouths…” There were some Tzaddikim who would recite this song three times a day and one Tzadik who made sure he remembered it up until he passed away.[4]
The Maharal of Prague encouraged people to recite Ha’azinu every morning before prayers as this song has the power to purify one’s mind and heart. He encouraged working people to learn Ha’azinu by heart so that they could recite it several times during the day. This is beneficial both for one’s parnasah(ability to earn a livelihood) and for long life.[5] (See Rambam Hilchot Tefillah 7:13 that some people would customarily recite this portion every day.)
Reb Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov said that reading Ha’azinu is a segulah (spiritually propitious act) to save oneself from heretical beliefs (Agra DePirka 115).

HaZiv Lach

The Talmud says that when reading Ha’azinu in shul on Shabbat, one must stop at the designated spots. The lettersהזי”ו לך  (HaZiv Lach) are the starting points of each of the aliyot. ה stands for האזינו which is the first word of the first aliyah. ז stands for זכור, the first word of the second Aliyah, and so on. Based on this order, some of the aliyot finish with negative verses. The purpose is to inspire the people to do Teshuvah.
The commentaries explain that there is meaning in the acronym HaZiv Lach as it alludes to the shining ray of light that emanated from Moshe Rabeinu. This shine came from the spiritual crowns which the Jewish people lost when they worshipped the golden calf and which was transferred to Moshe Rabeinu. But on Shabbat he (Moshe Rabeinu) “returns it” to the Jewish people in the form of the extra Shabbat soul which every Jew receives. It is therefore appropriate that we divide the aliyot based on these acronyms on Shabbat as we are saying that the Ziv (shine) of Shabbat that we have is Lach – attributed to you, Moshe Rabeinu.[6]

Made by Ezra

According to Rabbeinu Bachaye (32:41), it was Ezra, the scribe, who enacted that the readings end at these places. He foresaw that the Jewish people would begin reading the Torah from beginning to end every year by reading it in order on Shabbat. (Although this is common practice today, it was not yet the custom in the times of Ezra.) And he wanted to allude to the Jewish people who would be reading this portion while in exile, that their shine (HaZiv) would return to them (Lach) with the imminent arrival of Moshiach.

No Extra Breaks

In order to keep the aliyot at the correct spots, as explained above, one may not give any hosafot (extra aliyot) in the middle of the aliyot (Magen Avrahm 428:7). One may add, however, in the seventh aliyah. (Some shuls never add aliyot.)

Finishing on a Sad Note

Usually it is forbidden to end an aliyah with a sad or negative event or concept. (See Rambam, Laws of Tehillah 13:5.) As mentioned above, the Torah portion of Ha’azinu is an exception as we end at the designated ending points given in the Talmud even though some of the ending points are negative. For example, the third Aliyah ends with the words, “You have weakened the Rock that bore you, and forgotten the G-d who delivered you (Deut. 32:18).” The Rambam (ibid) writes that by hearing words of rebuke, the people will be inspired to do Teshuvah.

Teshuvah from Love

Rabbi Natan Gestetner ob”m points out (Kovetz Panim Me’irot, 7, pgs 3 and 4) that when we read the rebuke in the Torah portions of Bechukotai and Ki Tavo, we do not stop in the middle in order to bring people to Teshuvah. So why do we do so in this Parsha?
He explains that there are two ways to inspire people to do Teshuvah. One is by warning them of the punishments that await them if they sin. The Teshuvah engendered by this awareness is a Teshuvah out of fear which doesn’t completely erase the effect of a sin. (In the language of our sages, “Willful sins are considered to be sins done in error.”)
Another way to inspire Teshuvah is by reminding a person of G-d’s immense love for us and how He has protected us miraculously throughout history. This should inspire a person to do Teshuvah out of love. A Teshuvah done out of love for G-d has the power to turn sins into Mitzvot. The rebuke in the portions of Bechukotai and Ki Tavo is the former type, the Teshuvah out of fear. As such, if we end an aliyah in the middle of the reading, it is a negative ending point as this kind of Teshuvah doesn’t completely wipe away the sin. But Parshat Ha’azinu is a song that shows us G-d’s continuing love for us through all the generations, and thus it is appropriate to stop in the middle as this reading inspires the people to a level of Teshuvah which transforms sins to mitzvot. That is a positive development, and therefore it is a good place to stop.
For this reason, it is appropriate that we read this portion on Shabbat Shuva (on many years), for the level of Teshuvah we should do on this Shabbat is a Teshuvah out of love.

Not Bad at All

In addition, as mentioned above, since the song of Ha’azinu covers the entire span of history, we can clearly see how all of the “bad” events were key elements towards the world achieving its ultimate equilibrium – with Moshiach. Seen in that context, these events are not negative at all.
May we sing the ultimate Song – the Song of the Redemption, speedily in our days!
This article was based on sources given in the Pardes Yosef.
[1] Abir HaRo’im (about the Sochatshover Rebbe who was the Kotzker Rebbe’s son-in-law) ot 63
[2] Marit Ha’Ayin of the Chida (on Rosh HaShana 31a) citing the Panei’ach Raza by Rabbi Yitzchak HaLevi (Parshat Ha’azinu).
[3] Sefer HaToldot Admur Maharash pg. 134 quoted in Pardes Yosef
[4] She’erit Natan about Rabbi Natan Lubert
[5] Sefer HaZichronot of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe vol. 1 page 125 in the Hebrew edition.
[6] Marit Ayin of the Chida ibid based on the Arizal
Wishing you a Good Year and a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach!

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