Origin Story: Ha’azinu 2017

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: When we wish to make a fresh start in our lives, how easy is it to behave as if recent events never happened? How difficult is it to go “back to the beginning” and to ignore the ways we, and others around us, may have changed?

It’s instructive that the Torah portion of Ha’azinu always is read in close proximity to the High Holidays, because, for one thing, it reminds us that it isn’t always easy to remember where we came from:

The Pitch: “You neglected the Rock that begot you, forgot the God who brought you forth.” – Deuteronomy 32:18

Swing #1: “What you have done may be likened to the conduct of a certain man who, continually in debt, was advised by a friend to feign insanity whenever he would meet one of his creditors. Unfortunately, the result was that the man eventually used these tactics also when he owed money to that same friend and the latter came to collect his debt. And his friend said to him in anger: ‘It was I who first gave you the advice to feign insanity when you meet a creditor of yours. Is it fair that you should now put my own counsel to use against me?’” – Jacob ben Wolf Kranz

Swing #2: “Non-human images for God … are rich and to be appropriated rather than ignored in the common tendency to focus heavily upon personal images for God. They are not meant to convey an impersonal notion. … But they point us to other features and alleviate some of the difficulties that arise when all one’s conversation and theological discourse about God is dependent upon personal images.” – Patrick D. Miller, The Way of the Lord: Essays in Old Testament Theology

Swing #3: “[‘Begot you’ is] a reminder that God is not always perceived in exclusively male imagery in the Bible.” – Everett Fox, The Five Books of Moses

Late-Inning Questions: How was it possible for the Israelites to “forget” God after the drama of the Exodus from Egypt, the giving of the Law, and 40 years of wandering in the desert? Is it possible that the Israelites knew of God, but had no idea how to understand God? As we approach Rosh Hashanah, how do we endeavor to “know God” and “understand God”? Is there a difference? What might it be?

The Big Inning at the End: The new Jewish year almost always coincides with a new year for the teams entering the Major League Baseball playoffs. Whether a team qualified for the playoffs by a wide or a narrow margin, the season begins anew when October starts. How easy is it for playoff teams to “start over” after playing almost every day for six months? The ones who refresh best will go the farthest …

L’Shanah Tovah U’Metukah, and soon thereafter, Shabbat Shalom!