May 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Ha’azinu: The Hesitant Prognosticator

Once upon a time, in the town of Cherry Hill, there lived a meteorologist who would not predict the weather.

Now, meteorologists can have many different jobs. Some work for the government, analyzing weather patterns or studying global warming. Others study the atmosphere and analyze climate trends to help farmers. There are those who develop new tools and instruments to forecast the weather. Still others are professors, teaching the meteorologists of tomorrow. But that was not the case with our meteorologist, whose name was Sam.

No, Sam Cohen was a straight-up weatherman, working for News12 New Jersey. On the air they called him Snow Cohen, because he was an expert at predicting accumulations of that white, fluffy precipitation that school children love so.

Sam had been happy working at the television station for many years, and he had even become a local celebrity. He was popular at store openings, parades and sidewalk festivals for towns all over South Jersey. He even had his own tag line.

“Ladies and gentleman, here he is, for your weather pleasure, Snoooooooooooow Coooooooooooone!”

But, suddenly, one partly cloudy summer day with sixty-five percent humidity and a twenty percent chance of rain, Sam began to falter. His audience became suspicious when some of his forecasts seemed less than helpful.

“Tonight it will be dark and will get progressively lighter towards daybreak.”

“You might want to take your umbrella with you to work today. Although maybe it’s okay if you don’t, too.”

“And the chance of precipitation today is a big, fat maybe.”

After being prodded to be more definitive, Sam offered a zero percent forecast of snow, but as it was August in New Jersey, no one was impressed.

As Sam’s summer doldrums persisted, it became obvious that something had to be done. News12’s viewers were dressing incorrectly for going outside, and it was beginning to become embarrassing.

It was decided that the best person to talk with Sam was his good friend Mike “Boom-Boom” Markowitz, the sportscaster on the morning show.

Mike pulled Sam into his office—actually, it was more of a cubicle festooned with sports scenes poorly cut out from magazines and applied to the wall with Scotch tape—for a chat.

“Sam, we go back a long way.”

“That’s true, Mike.”

“I remember you when you were just an intern at the station. You might say you were just a snowflake then.”

Sam smiled politely. Sportscasters are not famous for their witticisms at News12.

“So I guess what I need to know is, what in the wide, wide world of sports is going on with you.”

Sam sighed deeply. “It all goes back to last week’s Torah reading.”

“Huh?”

“You know, the Torah reading in synagogue?”

“Yes, Sam, I know what you’re referring to. I just don’t see how that could possibly have any bearing on your weather forecast.”

“I was reading the start of Parshat Ha’azinu in the Chumash, because it’s one of my favorite parshiyot. It actually has the weather in it. ‘Give ear, O heavens and I will speak; and may the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop like rain, may my words flow like dew.’ Wow, now that Moses could do the weather!”

“Okay, I’ll give you that. But what does that have to do with your prognosticating predicament?”

Not bad for a sports guy.

“Well, as I read on in Ha’azinu and saw all of Moshe’s dire predictions for the future of Israel, like ‘I shall consume the earth and its produce, and set ablaze what is founded on mountains,’ I began to feel that making predictions for the future can be devastating. Think how awful the Israelites must have felt, knowing what was in store for them. It’s not a good feeling. Then I started to think about what I do for a living, and I realized I’m a predictor of doom, too. Storms, winds, blazing heat. Lighting, hail, frost. I, too, am a prophet of doom. And I started to think that maybe the good people of New Jersey would be better off without the daily gloom that I forecast. Know what I mean? Parshat Ha’azinu is not a confidence builder for a weatherman.”

Mike smiled. “Sam, my friend, you’ve got this parsha all wrong. To me, as a sportscaster, Ha’azinu is clearly a case of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. It’s a Cinderella story, about the underdog overachieving. Why, it’s as inspiring as the Sixty-eight Jets, as the Devils when they-”

“Mike, do you have a point to make?”

“Sorry, I tend to get carried away with the thrill of victory and the agony of def-”

“Mike?”

“Right. Sam, Moshe’s warning in Ha’azinu is not a doom and gloom prediction. It’s there to teach the Israelites that they can avoid this fate by following G-d’s commandments. It also shows them that in the end there is a path back to God. It allows for repentance. The dire warning in the song is meant to steer them in the right direction. And in consolation it ends with vechiper admato amo. He will appease His Land and His people. That’s good news.

“So predicting the weather is a good thing. Like Ha’azinu, it can teach people to avoid danger, like storms. And it also shows people how after a blizzard it will eventually become warm again and you can go out and enjoy the world. It’s all a big cycle. Get it?”

Sam (The Snow) Cohen smiled. Mike “Boom Boom” Markowitz had made his point. And so Sam went back to forecasting the weather with gusto. For if winter comes, spring cannot be far behind.

Larry Stiefel is a pediatrician at Tenafly Pediatrics.

By Larry Stiefel

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