Parashat Ha’azinu 5780

Rabbi Adam Frankenberg – 11 October 2019

Ha’azinu, the penultimate sedra of the Torah takes the form of an epic poem. God’s last message to The Children of Israel though Moses his best, or at least most direct prophet. The one with whom He spoke ‘face to face’.

Many of the phrases of Ha’azinu are familiar to us from liturgy; ‘The Rock, His works are perfect for all his ways are just.‘ (Deut 32:4), and some from expressions; ‘and He said I will hide my face from them.’ (Deut 33:20).

After the recitation of the poem, God instructs Moses to ascend Mt. Nobo where he will die, because of his sin at the waters of mamra when he struck the rock rather than speaking to it. (This has always struck me as being somewhat harsh.)

Now Moses is the last person (or the last man at any rate) alive who left Egypt as an adult. Unlike Aaron and all the other men who had left Egypt, Moses will get to see the Land, even if only from afar, but he won’t actually get to enter it.

Looking from the Earth the stars seem very far away indeed. But, they are much, much further away than they seem. Even our nearest star, (if you exclude the sun), Proxima Centauri is 4.25 light years away or twenty four trillion miles if you prefer. A NASA feasibility study found that a nuclear fusion rocket (using helium 3 and Deuterium as fuel) could reach Prixima Centauri in as little as 100-120 years.

Imagine being on that ship, on a journey of a 100 or a 120 years. Three times as long as B’nei Israel spent in the wilderness. Those leaving would know that there was no going back but nor would they reach their destination. Those who would arrive would have no memory of earth. (In this case it might be hardest for the one, or possibly two, generations in the middle who neither have a memory of earth nor reach the promised star.)

In some cases even being given the opportunity to ‘see the land from afar’ is indeed a blessing. It takes courage, and faith, to set out on or continue with projects where we will not get to experience the final destination, but maybe like Moshe Rabbeinu we might get to see it from a far.

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