The One: Ha’azinu 2016

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Has a High Holiday experience ever changed your perspective on life? Has a particular Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur inspired you to live differently in some way? How can we best transition from the spiritual depth of Yom Kippur to the rest of the year?

Since the Yom Kippur service refers so frequently to the oneness of God, it is fitting that we spend this Shabbat thinking more about this idea in the Torah portion of Ha’azinu:

The Pitch: “See, then, that I, I am the One; there is no god beside Me. I deal death and give life; I wounded and I will heal: None can deliver from My hand.” (Deuteronomy 32:39)

Swing #1: We recall that behold, at the first sprouting of Israel’s redemption for the Egyptian exile, in Exodus 3:14, the Holy One said to Moses, ‘I will be who I will be.’ Rashi explains this by citing Berachot 9b, in the name of our sages, as meaning that ‘I will be with them in this distress, and that I will be with them through servitude of yet other kingdoms.’ And behold, now in the singing of Moses’ farewell song, a [present and] future redemption is mentioned, for the Holy One says [again repeating the first-person singular pronoun], ‘Now that time when “I, I am the One,” has arrived. Then [at the Burning Bush] I spoke in the language of the future, “I will be,” and now that the time has arrived, I speak in the language of the present, “I, I am the One.”‘” – Hatam Sofer

Swing #2: Wherever the statement ‘I am the Lord’ appears in connection with the fulfillment of a precept, it implies that the Lord is ‘faithful to give reward.’ When the same statement appears with reference to a sin, it implies that He is ‘faithful to mete out punishment.’ But does not ‘YHWH’ imply the virtue of mercy? How, then, can it be used in connection with punishment? Should Scripture not have used the statement ‘I am God (Elohim)’, which would imply the Divine attribute of stern justice? The reason why the statement ‘I am the Lord’ is used in connection with both reward and punishment is that even punishment for sin is regarded as an act of Divine mercy and compassion.” – Gan Raveh

Swing #3: [This verse] is meant to be a summary statement of faith in the one all-powerful God, against whom no act of rebellion or presumption can be effective. In God, there resides all power; He alone is the agency of ‘death,’ ‘life,’ and all stages of weakness and strength that fall in between the ultimate ‘pouring out’ and the greatest possible ‘filling up.’ Since there is perhaps no other action of God’s which displays the totality and uniqueness of His power more forcefully than the process by which He restores His dead to life, a reference to bodily resurrection is surely in keeping with the context at this point.” – Leonard J. Greenspoon, “The Origin of the Idea of Resurrection,” from Traditions in Transformation: Turning Points in Biblical Faith, edited by Baruch Halpern and Jon D. Levenson

Late-Inning Questions: Is it important to you to believe that there is only one God? Have you felt that way because you were taught to believe in one God from an early age, or did you need to struggle with your belief before arriving at that philosophy? What does it mean to have a one-on-one relationship with God?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: For so many, the upcoming holiday of Sukkot is a welcome catharsis from the intensity of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We hope you will celebrate with us. Our Sukkot preparations were understandably delayed due to Hurricane Matthew, but you can be part of the process on Sunday beginning at 9:30AM, by joining our Men’s Club and YAD at our annual Build & Beer program. Your presence and assistance will make our upcoming Festival of Joy even more exhilarating.

The Big Inning at the End: Of course, Sukkot will be even more joyous if the Cubs win four more games to reach the World Series.

Shabbat Shalom! And, soon, Chag Sameach!