Celebrating abundance, preparing for scarcity
by Jhos Singer
Shabbat Shalom Chaverim,
Wow, I’m still bobbling around in the afterglow of the Days of Awe, stumbling in and out of random sukkot, and my olfactory nerves are pulsing with etrog’s intoxicating perfume. Tis the season!!!
Last week’s parasha, Ha’azinu Deuteronomy 32:1-52, is the penultimate reading in the Torah. It gives us the emergence of Moses the poet. A man who once protested being called to public speaking with “Not me, I am a man of uncircumcised lips.” But even this reveals his nascent poetic streak. It takes 40 years but this week’s parasha reveals Moses as a poet, a bard, a word-smithing genius. And it utterly departs from everything that had come before. Ha’azinu begins in two parallel pillars of text instead of one big block and it is a poem—or two. Some scholars argue that it is written in side-by-side columns because it is actually two versions of one thought.
Consider the first two verses (Deuteronomy 32:1-2) as one piece:
The heavens listen and I will speak, and may the earth hear the utterances of my mouth. May my teaching drop like rain, may my words flow like the dew, storm winds upon new grass, and like raindrops upon green plants.
The heavens listen and I will speak Let earth hear the words of my mouth;
May my teaching drop like rain, May my speech flow like the dew,
Like storm winds upon new grass… Like raindrops upon green plants…
What a perfect metaphor for this time of year—Moses finally reveals his poetic and complex, celebratory and sober, blustery and beautiful soul. Indeed, this is a spiritual season—the weather is in flux, our hearts have been opened up by the Days of Awe, we are looking backwards, inward and forwards at the same time. We mimic this by shaking the 4 species of the Lulav to the East, South, West, North, Skyward, Earthward, and Heartward. It is a time of harvest and a time of conservation, a time of reveling in abundance while preparing for scarcity. Jewish wisdom teaches that it is at this precise, fragile, abundant, and unpredictable time that we should put ourselves in flimsy, beautiful, wobbly, and inviting spaces. So with the optimism and energy of resilient children, we build forts in our backyards, on our porches, or in our driveways. Tradition tells us to invite in guests, feed them well, and bask together in the indefinite nowness of it all.
As our world wrestles with the brokenness of the past, let us find courage to be here, now. May we find the integrity to be whole—to not let the past bury our future. May our scars be signets of wisdom gained in battle, in the fire, in the wilderness. And may we fearlessly tell our stories; reliving failure, triumph, humiliation, redemption, and most of all, our vision for a whole and healthy world.
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