May 30, 2024
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“Now write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the Children of Israel. Put it in their mouths, so this song may be a witness for Me against the Children of Israel. For when I shall have brought them into the land of which I swore to their fathers, one flowing with milk and honey, and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and grown fat. Then they will turn to other gods, serve them, provoke Me, and break My covenant. And it shall come to pass when many evils and troubles have befallen them that this song shall testify against them as a witness. For it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed. For I know their inclination, and what they do, even now, before I have brought them into the land of which I swore. Moshe therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the Children of Israel” (Devarim 31:19–22).

Rashi identifies “this song” as Shirat Ha’azinu (Devarim 31:19). Indeed, Shirat Ha’azinu is so important that the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (31a) says it should be divided into six chapters and read aloud every Shabbat, during Mussaf.

What is so special about this song? The Midrash tells us, “Great is this song, as it embraces the present, the past and the future, this life and the hereafter” (Sifrei, Devarim: Piska 333).

Let us study the Ramban’s famous comments, based on this Midrash:

“This song, constituting for us a true and faithful witness, plainly tells us all that will befall us. It opens by describing God’s kindness to us since He chose us as His people, followed by a record of His unparalleled generosity towards us during the wilderness years, and how He disinherited mighty nations for us (Devarim 32:7–14).

“It then tells of our consequent rebellion against God—from an overabundance of goodness—including how we would ultimately end up worshiping idols (Devarim 32:15–18). Our song then records the result of our ungrateful and despicable behavior, incurring the Almighty’s wrath and climaxing with the expulsion of the people from their Homeland, and their dispersal amongst the nations of the world (Devarim 32:19–26). Indeed, this has been our lot.

“It is plain the song speaks of our ultimate redemption, testifying we will suffer Divine reproof yet accompanied by the promise our memory will not be blotted out. Instead, God will forgive our sins and repay our enemies for His name’s sake. Thus, as the Sifrei [as we quoted above] has said: ‘Great is this song, as it embraces the present, the past and the future, this life and the hereafter.’

“Were this song merely to constitute an astrologer’s horoscope, we would be justified in believing it, since all of its contents have hitherto been realized, without the slightest deviation. How much more should we wholeheartedly believe in and await the fulfillment of God’s words through the mouth of His most trusted prophet.”

One feels the need to read these words of Ramban time and again. With all the serious challenges that we face in Israel today, we would be wise to take a step back once in a while and see the forest—not just the trees. After two millennia of exile and devastation we are slowly but surely reaching the climax of Shirat Ha’azinu. We are meeting the challenge of kibbutz galuyot, ingathering of the exiles, and now we are confronting the next bracha in the Shemonah Esrei, Hashiva Shofteinu. These are issues that need to be clarified only through positive and tolerant discussion, but one thing is for sure—in the context of the last two millennia, we are closer than ever before to realizing the complete prophecy of this special song, and as long as we share the common goal diversity and discussion will lead us closer to the final redemption.

A complete version of this Dvar Torah can be found in the third essay of Parashat Ha’azinu in The Three Pillars series by Rabbi David Milston.


Rabbi David Milston is director of the Overseas Program at Midreshet HaRova. He is a member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau (www.mizrachi.org/speakers).

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