Images of God

In Parashat Ha'azinu, God is portrayed in many different lights.

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Sodom & Gomorrah

One clue may lie in the mention of Sodom and Gomorrah in v. 32. As part of the announcement of the punishment in store for Israel's enemies, this verse states: "Ah! The vine for them is from Sodom, / From the vineyards of Gomorrah." Through the metaphors in this verse, the Song maligns the nations as corrupt and foreshadows their fate. This calls to mind when God threatens to destroy those cities, prompting Abraham to protest: "Must not the Judge of all the earth do justly?" (Genesis 18:25). Perhaps parashat Haazinu can be seen as an invitation for us to act like Abraham and protest against what seems to be an indiscriminate, wholesale destruction.

It is an opportunity to raise questions such as: Where is Your compassion, God, not only toward us but toward all of Your creation? Why frighten us with your threats? Will such threats make us abandon other deities or, just as likely, will they lead us to reject You? Such questions express what it means to be covenantal partners, willing to challenge God. Thus, beyond protesting against what we now deem unacceptable, this parashah can prompt us to examine who we mean by God. It also can remind us of what is required in order to create a just society and uphold a covenantal relationship.

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Dr. Ellen Umansky

Dr. Ellen Umansky is the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Professor of Judaic Studies and Director of the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies at Fairfield University.