Friday, September 29, 2006

DVAR TORAH: Haazinu/Shabbat Shuvah

My postings are gross. Yep, I've submitted 144 posts! For those who have no ideas what is going on, a gross means 12 dozen a.k.a. 144.

I would write about Teshuva, as this is Shabbat Shuvah, but I’m sick and I need my rest. So I leave you with scribal oddities this week for Parashat Haazinu, the last torah portion to get a Shabbat (outside of Israel, Simchat Torah, where we read V’Zot HaBracha, never falls on Shabbat).

A little bit of trivia, this torah portion contains the shortest word in the Bible. A one-letter word begins the sixth verse, "הַ". I have had this as a trivia question before. Can anyone tell me what is the longest word in the Bible?

I also want to bring up something fascinating I’ve noticed. Many piyyutim and songs in the Jewish liturgy contain within their lines a hidden signature. Lecha Dodi says “Shlomo”, Ezkera Elokim, the final selicha of Yom Kippur is identified “Amitai”, Akdamut has a signature at the end of the alphabetical acrostic, and many more. Haazinu is Moses’ Swan Song (take the term semi-literally). It also has his signature in the first six verses. But wait, משה is three letters! Ah, here in lies the further genius of Moshe Rabbeinu. He uses gematria. The first four verses begin with, ה, י, כ, ה (the gematria is 5+10+20+5, which equal 40, which is the letter מ), verses five and six begin with ש and ה. There you have it, the most humble person who ever lived signed the Torah which he wrote. It’s like having an autographed copy of a first edition, but better! Trés cool!

The ultimate scribal oddity? This Torah portion is written in two column form (two columns occupying the space of a single normal column, and read across as opposed to reading one complete column and than another). This is totally removed from the brick-layer pattern of Shirat Hayam. Both forms recur elsewhere in the Bible, but I believe these are the only instances in the Torah. So far, from the ones that I recall, the bricklayer ones are positive, and the ones in two-column form are full of rebuke.

Alright, there is something I should mention about Shabbat Shuvah itself. No, this is not going to be the Shabbat Shuvah Dvar Torah I should give. This week and the Shabbat before Passover (Shabbat HaGadol), one is supposed to expound at length on the laws of teshuva and cleaning for chumetz, respectively. Its triumvirate haftarah features three great prophets who I have always imagined to tag-team (even though some lived centuries apart). Something which is the theme of the Ata Hivdalta (possibly my favorite selicha) of Yom Kippur’s Neilah service is that God does not desire the death of the wicked, but rather repentance and saving. Yes, this is beautiful and all, but how about the most decent of people who end up dying. Can you really say to that "בראש השנה יכתיבין וביום צום כיפור יחתימון"? (If I do end up writing a Yom Kippur Dvar Torah, I plan on commenting on the UnTane Tokef, so I don’t want to delve into this now). Everyone dies; whether they have been wholly good or completely evil, they die. We are talking about the here and now, not about the afterlife, which we have discussed in a previous Dvar Torah as superior to the World to Come.

Cast away your sins, seek out your friends. From God you have been given a new chance for a new year. In the civil new year, everyone makes resolutions, to lose weight (mine), to not hit your siblings, to quit smoking, to be more motivated. Resolutions are inherent to the High Holiday season. The penultimate part of the silent amidah on the High Holidays (which has for some reason and to my chagrin (it’s so beautiful and poetic) been omitted in the Machzor we now use at VBS) it says "יהי רצון מלפניך... שלא אחטא עוד"
“may it be Your will, O Lord my God and the God of my fathers that I sin no more”. God awaits us, return to Him and you shall live. Whatever that means.

Shabbat Shalom, Shana Tova.

No comments: