Commentary on Parashat Ha'Azinu, Deuteronomy 32:1 - 32:52
This Shabbat we read Ha’azinu, Moses‘ last words to the children of Israel before his death on Mount Nebo, within view of Canaan, the promised land. After Moses is finished speaking, God speaks to Moses and says:
49. Ascend these heights of Abarim to Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab facing Jericho, and view the land of Canaan that I am giving the Israelites as their holding.
50. You shall die on the mountain that you are about to ascend, and shall be gathered to your kin, as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor, and was gathered to his kin;
51. for you both broke faith with Me among the Israelite people, at the waters of Meribath-Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin, by failing to uphold My sanctity among the Israelite people.
52. You may view the land from a distance, but you shall not enter the land that I am giving to the Israelite people.
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What would it be like if, like Moses, we knew when we were about to die? Do you think Moses made “teshuvah,” repentance, before his death?
In the Talmud (Shabbat 153a) it says: “What does Rabbi Eliezer mean when he says, ‘Repent one day before your death.’ How can one know when that day comes? Since no person can know this, one must repent every day of one’s life.” Moses was a unique individual, for God told him when and where he would die.
However, unlike Moses we do not know the date and place of our death. And so we live life never quite knowing how long we have. It is a sobering thought. On Yom Kippur we remember something very important, our time here on earth is so incredibly precious and often so short. Let us remember this Yom Kippur that each of our days counts. We mortals do not know the date of our death. Let us use our days wisely, not merely living from one Day of Repentance to the next. Let us in turn make teshuvah with the people important to us all the days of our lives.
Provided by Hillel’s Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning, which creates educational resources for Jewish organizations on college campuses.
Pronounced: tuh-SHOO-vah, (oo as in boot) Origin: Hebrew, literally “return”, referring to the “return to God” teshuvah is often translated as “repentance.” It is one of the most significant themes and spiritual components of the High Holidays.
Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.
Pronounced: yohm KIPP-er, also yohm kee-PORE, Origin: Hebrew, The Day of Atonement, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar and, with Rosh Hashanah, one of the High Holidays.