Parshas Haazinu - Rise and Shine

By Rabbi Zvi Teichman
Posted on 09/21/23

This week we read the portion of the Torah that is referred to as שירת האזינו — the Song of Haazinu.

Encapsulated within its verses is the full history of the Jewish people, both the collective as well as everyone's personal journey.

Nachmanides asserts that within the letters of these verses there exist hidden allusions to each of our names and their role in the panoply of history.

It is thus called a song, because the entire past, present, and future of our experience expresses the total harmony of G-d's orchestration of history in bringing it to a joyous crescendo. The hardships and challenges are all precisely scripted to bring about a symphony of tribute to the Almighty's ultimate benevolence.

We divide the six aliyos that comprise this song in very specific way, beginning each Aliyah, at verses that begin with letters — הזיו לך.

These two words literally translate into the sentiment that states 'the radiance is yours'. 

Is this merely a coincidence that these first letters spell out a two-word phrase and is just used as a charming mnemonic device, or is there some deeper intention?

The division of the portions presents a halachic quandary. There is a rule regarding the structuring of breaks in the reading of the Torah, that the first and last verse of any aliyah must begin and end on a 'good note' — a positive point, yet nearly all the first and last verses talk about the many curses that befell us and were challenged with?

Rabbeinu Bechaye suggests that we use this acronym to encourage us by emphasizing that despite the many difficulties we may face, one day all the pain and struggle we endure will pan out favorably bringing forth the final 'radiant' redemption.

Perhaps there is even a deeper message.

Why is this specific noun זיו — radiance, used to imagine the future redemption?

There are only two places in the entire Torah where the word for 'chronicles' — תולדות, is written 'full', with two 'Vov's.

אלה תולדות — These are the chronicles of heaven and earth, on the day G-d completed earth and heaven. (בראשית ב ד)

ואלה תולדות — These are the generations of Paretz, Peretz begot Chetzron… and Yishai begot David. (רות ד יח-כב)

Before the sin the world was perfect, and man — the purpose of creation, possessed זיו — radiance, חיים — eternal life, קומה — great physical stature, the fruits of trees, and the fruits of the ground — grew more rapidly and robustly, and the מאורות — luminaries, the sun and the moon served equally. After Man sinned these were diminished and now lacking.

The letter Vov, the sixth letter in the Alef Beis, was inserted at the onset of the chronicles of creation — before man's sin — to indicate perfection. After the sin, in all subsequent developments of man something was missing. It will only be restored when the noble descendant of Peretz, Moshiach, will herald the final redemption. (בראשית רבה יב ד)

The very first indication of Man's greatness, the Midrash states, is his — זיו radiance.

The Torah describes the קרן עור פניו — 'radiant skin on his face' of Moshe, which the Targum translates as his זיו.

After the Sin of the Golden Calf, Moshe appealed to G-d to forgive his people. Realizing that he 'found favor in G-d's eyes' he added the request to fathom G-d's goodness even when to all appearances it seems as if the righteous are suffering.

G-d accedes to his request and places Moshe in a cave, shielding him with His hand, until G-d passes by, so Moshe will not see His face, and has Moshe only view His back.

It was during this mystical episode, we are taught, that Moshe absorbed that light that shone from his face.

Although none of us will ever merit this level of greatness, however when we face challenges in life as part of the incomprehensible Measure of Judgment that G-d must dispense for our personal and collective benefit, we reflect a ray of that former radiance, that Adam achieved and perceived before succumbing to sin.

Moshe illuminated with that original light. We mirror it when we rise to our struggles and shine with steadfast faith in His ultimate goodness.

Praiseworthy is, יודעי תרועה — the people who knows the shofar blast, O G-d, באור פניך — in the light of Your countenance will they walk. (תהלים פט טז)

Rav Hutner explains that the fragmented tear sounding blast of the Teruah refers to our justifying the Measure of Judgment as founded on G-d's goal to shower kindness upon humanity, which draws us closer to Him.

When we live with this consciousness, we then merit to reflect from the Divine light of His countenance and appropriately be told, הזיו לך — 'the radiance is yours!'

A year ago, a recently married young man and his wife, found themselves on a bus near the Tomb of King David, when they suddenly became targets of a terrorist who shot him while he was attempting to shield someone's child from the gunman. Lying on the floor and bleeding profusely, while the shooting continued, he began to prepare for his final moments. He began whispering to Hashem, how is so young, just married, no children, just starting life, begging Hashem to spare him. As he pleaded for his life, he remembered a story about his great-grandfather that was often repeated in the family.

His, then young, elter-Zaide was on crowded cattle together with his parents and siblings headed to Auschwitz. When they arrived, his father assessed the situation and realized these were his last moments on earth before parting from his children. He related how the Baal Shem Tov once told his followers that he was busy in bringing a tikkun for some pure and holy souls who perished al Kiddush Hashem, because despite their refined neshamos had questions during their martyrdom.

His father then addressed his children. "We may soon be on our way to a better world, as we prepare to die al Kiddush Hashem. Let us make sure that our sacrifice is pure, that we don't have any questions or doubts during our final moments."

In the shadow of the cattle cars, he grabbed his children's hands and danced.

The elter-zeide was the sole survivor.

The young man on the bus suddenly cried out, "Hashem I have no complaints, I accept your decree with pure faith!"

He was a Stuchiner Chosid, and as he lay in a pool of blood, he began singing a niggun of his Rebbe, Yesh Borei Olam, over and over again. It was if he was transported to another world removed from the screams and chaos.

He eventually was evacuated by the emergency medical teams and survived to recover fully. (Yated Magazine, RH Issue 5784, CB Weinfeld)

May we each find that inner resolve to 'rise and shine' when we face the challenges our loving Father sends us during our sojourn on earth, with the faith it all stems from Divine goodness.


גמר חתימה טובה,

צבי יהודה טייכמאן