These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

האזינו, ha’azinu

Posted on October 2, 2011 by Avi Strausberg

Tags: , , , , , ,

Howl in the Darkness

the language of parshat ha’azinu seems to be in a poetic world of its own, amidst the torah verses that surround it.  a prophetic moshe, nearing the end of both his journey and his life, spews forth a mixture of his own words with God’s in another rage against the people’s disobedience.

according to moshe, “ימצאהו בארץ מדבר ובתוהו ילל ישמון יסבבנהו יבוננהו … He found him in the wilderness land, in the waste of the howling desert.  He encircled him and gave mind to him” (devarim 32:10, trans. robert alter)

this visual is nothing short of striking and disturbing.  i am immediately reminded of allen ginsberg’s howl in which he depicts the “best minds of [his] generation destroyed by madness.”  this jewish people, lost and raving in the desert, are the same great minds of whom allen ginsberg writes.  they are desperate seekers, searching for love, for community, for meaning, for God, for some sort of wisdom they can tap into which will make it all make sense.  “who wandered around and around at midnight in the railroad yard wondering where to go, and went, leaving no broken hearts…” (ginsberg).

in the jewish story, God finds this lost people in the desert and hands them the answer: the Torah.  a set of rules and stories compiled to tell us how to live and toward whom to direct our search for meaning.  seemingly, the Torah solves this dilemma of meaning neatly for generations to come.  the question is:  did it ever really work?  and, if so, does it still work for us now?

exposed in the wild,
wind howling at my back,
questions at my ears.

sometimes finds herself lost in the desert,


please, check out this first bit of howl.  or, full version here.

howl by allen ginsberg

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
      madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
      looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
      connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat
      up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats
      floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El
      and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated…