HA’AZINU (give ear)

Deuteronomy 32:1 Listen, O you heavens and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. 2 My teaching will fall as the rain; אמְרָתי my speech will condense as the dew, as the light rain upon the tender herb and as the showers upon the grass: 3 Because I will proclaim the name of יהוה: Come declare the greatness of our Elohim. 4 He is the Rock, His work is perfect: all His ways are judgments: an Elohim of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He. 5 He is not corrupt, but they have corrupted themselves, the defect of His children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.

Question: Does יהוה cause corruption in the world? True, there is evil and corruption in the world, but יהוה does not cause it. People, not יהוה, cause corruption. (Rashi).

6 Is this the way you repay to ליהוה זֹאת this O foolish people and unwise? Is not He your Father that has brought you out? Has He not made you, and established you? 7 Remember the days of old, think of the years throughout the generations: ask your father and he will show you; your elders and they will tell you. 

Question: Why does יהוה continually remind us to look to the past? Remember what יהוה did to past generations who provoked Him to anger. Remember the generation of Enosh, whom Elohim flooded with the waters of the ocean, and the generation of the Flood, whom Elohim washed away. Another explanation is: [If] you have not set your attention to the past, then “reflect upon the years of generations,” to recognize the future, that He has the power to bestow good upon you and to give you as an inheritance the days of the Messiah and the world-to-come. Most people refuse to believe that the past is relevant to them, and they suffer for this foolish shortsightedness. 

The past is what forms you into what you are today.

The Hebrew mindset of how to look at the past and future is like driving a car backwards. We should always be looking at the past because we can see what happened to our ancestors and learn from it (know where you have been already). We should not look to the future because it is unknown (like what lies ahead in the road is unknown).

Question: Someone who messes up and then admits it and corrects himself is greater than someone who never messed up in the first place. How do you understand this idea? While we never try to mess up and make mistakes, oftentimes we grow though the experience – learning how not to act in the future – and we especially grow by developing the honesty to admit our mistakes to ourselves and to anyone we might have harmed.

Question: Is it preferable to learn from our own mistakes or from the mistakes of others? It’s definitely valuable to learn from our mistakes. What a shame to mess up and not even learn from it for the next time! But if we can avoid the mess-up in the first place, that is even better. We can when we learn to look at the lives of those around us and those who lived before us, and analyze what they did right and what they did wrong. We have a fantastic opportunity to live a happier life and avoid a lot of painful mistakes if we are willing to do so.

“A fool learns from his own mistakes, a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”

#53 Haazinu