Sent: Friday, October 14, 2005 9:12 AM
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: Netvort: parshas Ha'azinu, 57766

                                           What, Me Worry?
             By Rabbi Joshua (optimistically known as The Hoffer) Hoffman

Rabbi Yedayah HaPenini, the medieval author of the homiletic work Binah LeItim, coined a saying that has become very popular in recent years, due to its use as the lyrics of a song by a well-known Orthodox Jewish singer. The saying, paraphrased, is that the past is no longer, the future has not yet occurred, and the present is but the twinkling of an eye, so what is there to worry about. Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zt'l, was strongly opposed to this philosophy of life. In Judaism, he said, the past, present and future all coalesce, and all need to be part of our consciousness ( see Noraos Ho Rov, volume 15, pages 94-97).. Just as a healthy person needs a past he can look to for roots, and a future goal to strive for, in order to give meaning to his present, so, too, on a national level, all three dimensions are needed for the nation to be healthy. According to Rabbi Soloveitchik, then, contrary to the popular saying and the recent song, it is only through coalescing the past, present and future that one can have a healthy personality. However, although Rabbi Soloveitchik says that this time- consciousness requires a person to worry, I believe that ultimately, it will result in a sense of meaning, both on an individual and on a national level, and a feeling of joy. This notion, moreover,  can be found in parshas Ha'azinu, as brought out in the midrash and commentaries.

The Sifrei praises the shira, or poem, of Ha'azinu, because it includes the present, the past, the future, and the world to come. Ramban and Rabbeinu Bachya both write that all of Jewish history is included in the parsha of Ha'azinu. Ramban, in fact, writes that it is called 'shira' because the Jews had a practice of reading it regularly as a song, with joy, and Rambam, in his Mishneh Torah, Laws of Prayer, 7:13, mentions a practice of reading Ha'azinu every day. Rabbi Yechiel Halperin,an eighteenth century ancestor of the famed Rabbi Gavriel Zev Margolis, whose seventieth yahrzeit was observed on the tenth of Elul this past year ( 5765), mentions, in his Seder HaDoros, a story regarding a student of the Ramban, Abner of Burgos. Abner became an apostate and told the Ramban that it was this teaching of his, that every person can find a hint to himself in parshas Ha'azinu, that led him to abandon the Jewish faith. Ramban then demonstrated to Abner that his name is, indeed, alluded to in the verse, "I said I will scatter them, I will cause their memory to cease from man" (Devorim, 32:26). Abner was so overwhelmed by this proof, so the story goes, that he sailed off alone on a boat, never to be heard form again. it While this story, as many of the stories found in Seder HaDoros, may be apocryphal, it bespeaks a profound truth, as we will see.

Rabbi Yechiel Michel Feinstein, zt'l, son-in-law of Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveichik- the Brisker Rov- noted that at the end of parshas Vayeilech, the Torah says that after the Jewish nation has been in the holy land for some time, they will turn from God, worship idols, and enflame God's anger. As the Torah describes it, "And it shall be that when many evils and distresses will encounter it, then this song shall speak up before it as a witness" (Devorim, 31: 21-22). The Hebrew word for' and it shall be,' vehaya, denotes simcha. What simcha is involved here? Rabbi Feinstein explained that when one sees the broader picture of Jewish history, he understands how each part fits into place, even though when each event is looked at individually it may not seem to make sense. This is similar to the experience of an orchestra. Each individual instrument, as it plays its part, may not sound very melodious, but when one listens to the entire musical piece, with all of the instruments playing, it all fits together. Thus, when one looks at parshas Ha'azinu and understands that it includes all of Jewish history, he understands how all the different events that have occurred were necessary for God's master plan to unfold, and , in effect, rejoices over all the events, even those that, when they originally occurred, seemed to be nothing but experiences of suffering.

Based on Rabbi Feinstein's remarks, the reading of parshas Ha'azinu between Yom Kippur and Sukkos, as it occurs this year, takes on great significance. The Sefas Emes, among others  pointed out that on Yom Kippur we usually do not go beyond the level of repentance that comes from fear of God, by virtueof which our willful sins are now considered as having been inadvertent.  However, on Sukkos, we strive to go beyond that stage, and reach the higher level of repentance, that which comes from love of God, and which converts willful sins into mitzvos.  Rabbi Chaim Friedlander, in his Sifsei Da'as, writes that the sukkah, which, according to the Zohar, is called 'the shadow of faith,' represents God's providence, His presence in history. By looking at the broad sweep of history and realizing that God's providence was behind all that happened, we realize that everything that happened was, ultimately, part of His divine plan, and for the good. Looking at our individual lives in this way, we can see a similar process playing itself out over the years, as well. By reinterpreting the events in our lives in this way, we can utilize what we considered, at the time it occurred as bad, for good, and thereby reach the level of teshuvah from love, by which, as we noted, willful sins are converted into virtues. May we all strive to reach this level of   as the holiday of Sukkos approaches.

Please address all correspondence to the author (Rabbi Hoffman) with the following address - JoshHoff @

  To subscribe to Netvort, send a message with subject line subscribe, to To unsubscribe, send message with subject line unsubscribe, to the same address.