These and Those

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

[PCJE Dvar Torah] Ha’azinu – Transitioning

Posted on September 4, 2013 by Cara Abrams-Simonton

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This week marks many significant transitions in my life.


  • I return to study at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies for my second year of intensive text study in a Beit Midrash.
  • I celebrate my Hebrew birthday for the first time in my life, כ”ח באלול, turning the much anticipated 30.
  • I honor my father’s sixth yartzeit as I also bring in the Jewish new year…

As I sit with all these transitions and prepare for Erev Rosh HaShanah, I turn to read this week’s Torah portion, Haazinu.

In this parashah Moshe speaks to the Israelites just before his death as they prepare to cross the Jordan. Talk about a major transition, marking life, death, new roles, new beginnings, endings…

The majority of Moshe’s speech (which is called a שִּׁירָה in Hebrew, a song) to the Israelites, he reminds them to be faithful to God and warns them of the horrendous punishments that await them if they fail to do so.

At the beginning of the second aliyah, Moshe says:

Remember the days of old; reflect upon the years of [other] generations. Ask your father, and he will tell you; your elders, and they will inform you (Devarim 32: 7)
זְכֹר יְמוֹת עוֹלָם בִּינוּ שְׁנוֹת דֹּר וָדֹר שְׁאַל אָבִיךָ וְיַגֵּדְךָ זְקֵנֶיךָ וְיֹאמְרוּ לָךְ:

When I read this verse I paused and then reread it, and reread it again.

Sometimes the text just jumps into my life, and calls out to me saying, “Hey, its me Torah and I’m relevant to your life!” I sat thinking about what Moshe said to the Israelites as they prepared for a major life change and was comforted in my own transitions. Although Rashi reads this verse more in the light of the punishments which Moshe warns the Israelites about, I am struck by my instant personal connection with the text on this Erev Rosh HaShanah, yartzeit of my dear father as well as my beginning of a new decade. I am reminded of why I love Torah and how thankful I am to be able transition into this sweet new year amidst all these significant moments of my life.

Shanah tovah u’metuak from Jerusalem!