Weekly Reading Insights:
Rosh Hashana and Ha'azinu 5777



Overview of the Weekly Reading An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent
From the Chasidic Rebbes A Mystical Chasidic Discourse from the "Chabad Master" series
Moshiach this Week Kabbalah Teachings from the Sages of Tsfat and Galilee
Shabbat Law of the Week This week's story from Ascent's storyteller, Yerachmiel Tilles

Overview of the Torah Reading

To be read on Shabbat Ha'azinu, Shabbat Shuva, 3 Tishrei 5778/Sept. 21, 2017

Torah: Deut. 32:1-52
Haftorah: Hosea 14:2-10, Michah 7:18-20

Ha'azinu is the 10th Reading out of 11 in Deuteronomy and it contains 2326 letters, in 614 words, in 52 verses

Ha'azinu (Deuteronomy 32:1-52) is the song that Moshe, along with Yehoshua Ben Nun, sang to the People of Israel before he passed on. He warned the people to pay close attention to the words of this song, so that they would be able to live long in the land. G-d then told Moshe to climb the mountain and look at the land which the Jewish people were about to enter but Moshe was not, as he broke faith with G-d's word in the desert, with the Waters of Dispute. It was on Mt. Nevo, that Moshe was to pass on.


An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

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Rosh Hashanna 5778 begins this Wednesday evening at sunset and lasts for two full days. "Rosh Hashanna" is only one of four names that the Torah and the Rabbis have for Rosh Hashanna. First, "Rosh Hashanna," which means "the head of the year," because just as the head leads the body, so a person's spiritual condition during this holiday has an effect on the person's spiritual condition for the coming year. Second is "Yom HaDin" meaning "Day of Judgement," because on this day all the people of the world are judged according to their actions of the previous year. The third name is "Yom HaZikaron," "Day of Remembrance," because on Rosh Hashanna all the people of the world are remembered and mustered together under G-d's command. Finally, it is called "Yom HaTeruah" because the main commandment of Rosh Hashanha is to hear the blowing of the shofar.

It is explained in the discourses of Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch that the reason the shofar is narrow on one side and wide on the other is in connection with the verse read before shofar blowing (Psalms 118/5): "In a state of stress and narrowness I called to G-d, and He answered me expansively." Just as the call of the shofar starts from the narrow side and resounds through the wide side of the horn, so similarly in the spiritual realms, it is through our calling out to G-d in our times of distress and difficulty, that G-d will answer us in a way of broadness and abundance.

Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber wrote that the spiritual intention behind the commandment of shofar is teshuvah, returning to G-d. We see this in the first long blast of the shofar which is like the long cry or wail that comes from the awakening and arousal of the person's inner soul, and the anguish of realizing that we have distanced ourselves from G-d, the true spiritual source. There is also an aspect of teshuva that is more quiet, that is so deep that there is no strength to call out. This is the shouting of the heart that is beyond and above the call of a voice. This is expressed in the shorter and broken blasts of the shofar, the level referred to as "the inner voice that cannot be heard."

The Baal Shem Tov once told his student, Rabbi Zeev Kitzes, who would be blowing the shofar that year, to study the kabbalistic intentions of blowing the shofar. Rabbi Zeev did as he was instructed and even wrote the intentions down on a paper and put it in his pocket so he could refer to it when blowing the shofar. The Baal Shem Tov did not like this and miraculously, the note was lost. When Rabbi Zeev was about to blow the shofar he could not find the note. And because he had relied on it, he did not know the proper intentions by heart. This course of events pained him very much and made his heart sad. He cried bitterly and felt totally broken and dejected. With no other option, he blew the shofar without any special intentions. After the prayers the Besht told him the following: In the King's heavenly realm there are many rooms and chambers and each one has a different key. However, there is only one instrument with which you can open all the doors without exception, and that is an axe! The Besht continued with a glowing face: The kabbalistic intentions are the keys to the supernal gates. But a broken heart can open up any gate or chamber always.

This year Rosh Hashanna is followed immediately by Shabbos when we read Parshas Ha'azinu. This is a special shabbos for a few reasons. Firstly, it is the first of the seven days between Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur, seven days of time when we are given the opportunity to repair any damage done during the corresponding seven days of the weeks of the previous year and draw blessing down into the coming year. Further, on Shabbos we are commanded to eat fancier foods, sleep a little extra and relax, to take pleasure for G-d's sake. For this reason many mundane weekday activities become mitzvahs on Shabbos. Part of the service of Rosh Hashanna is accepting G-d as our King. A true king demands total obedience. On the Shabbos that follows Rosh Hashanna, when mundane activities like taking a walk or eating and sleeping become a mitzvah, the efforts we made to accept G-d as our king on Rosh Hashanna are even more pleasing in His eyes.

One of the special verses in Parshas Haazinu is: "His nation (the Jewish people) are a part of G-d, Yaacov is a rope of His legacy/portion." (32/9) It says in the book of Tanya that every Jewish person (referred to in the verse as "Yaacov") is tied to the source of life and holiness with a rope whose head is in heaven and whose end is here below. Of what is this rope woven? Of 613 threads, which are the 248 positive commandments and the 365 negative commandments.

In a different vein, Rabbi Moshe of Kurvin would say that a thick rope is woven together from many many strands. Even if there are strands that are damaged you often cannot see them. Even more, they still add to the strength of the rope. So it is with the Jewish people. When we are woven and joined together, even those of us who are in less than perfect condition are part of a greater purposeful connection.

Shana Tova, Shabbat shalom and ketivah v’chatimah tova, Shaul

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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's Reading, see the archive.


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Holy Zohar, Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary Kabbalists, and more,

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one sample:
Chasidic Masters

Revelation and Concealment

By Simon Jacobson

One of the main themes of Rosh Hashanah is knowing that compassion is imbued into the very fabric of existence -for otherwise, the world could not have endured. This becomes an eternal source of hope, giving us the strength to overcome any challenge.
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