Weekly Reading Insights: Ha'azinu - Yom Kippur 5784

Overview of the Torah Reading

To be read on Shabbat Ha'azinu, Shabbat Shuva, 8 Tishrei 5784/Sept.23, 2023

Torah: Deut. 32:1-52
Haftorah: II Samuel 22:1-51

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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This week's Torah portion is Haazinu. This Shabbat is called Shabbat Shuva - a Shabbat of return and we are just before Yom Kippur (Sunday night/Monday). What can we learn about the anatomy of crying?

The AriZal, the great kabbalist of Tsfat, taught that anyone who does not cry during the days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur and the Ten Days of Repentance in between, their soul is not complete. How can we understand this? Is it required to cry? If someone does not cry is there something lacking?

The Alter Rebbe in Ma'amarim Ktzarim (page 448) begins his explanation with a quote from the Zohar. "It is told about Rabbi Akiva, that "…Rabbi Eliezer the Great came and explained this verse to him,"Let me lean against the stout trunks, let me crouch among the apple trees, for I am sick with love." ( Shir HaShirim/Song of Songs 2:5),
His explanation is that during the weakness we all experience at this time of exile when G-d is hidden from us, the Jewish people are asking G-d to heal them with elements that remind them of the love of King David to G-d. Rabbi Akiva could not bear to hear this teaching without his eyes filling with tears of holiness from emotion.

There are tears of holiness and there are tears of kelipah [1], that are not based in holiness. Tears of kelipah are to be avoided. That is why the Baal Shem Tov distanced himself from the "black ones'" - anyone with a pessimistic, materialistic attitude. There is value in crying. However, the source of this type of crying is about the contradictions in this world, where our essence has come from a very exalted place but has fallen to a very low place. This type of crying is to be avoided because it is very difficult to elevate it and transform it to holiness.
When do we have tears of kelipah? These tears of sadness come from the pressure of living life where G-d is not in the equation. Where there are contradictions to our will for the way we want life to be.

Because of this pressure, the frustration of not knowing what can possibly be done in the physical plane, tears, which are in this context a waste product that exudes from the brain, are produced.

The heart has two dimensions, the inner dimension and the external dimension. The inner dimension of the heart, called the "inner point of the heart" is something very high, above intellect, on the level of razton, a person's will, something higher than the intellect of the brain. The external part of the heart is below our intellect and is what influences our actions. When something encompasses the brain and we can find no solution for it, we cry. This is the crying of kelipah.

There is also a crying that is connected to Divine service, to connecting to G-d. Rabbi Akiva cried because Rabbi Eliezer revealed to him the sublime secrets of the Torah in the above verse, until Rabbi Akiva was able to reach a revelation of Divinity so totally above his intellect, a contradiction to his human mind. that could not be contained by his brain, the brain had no place for it. This Divine idea grasped his entire intellect and literally squeezed his brain, connecting him to a level higher than intellect and therefore, he cried.

The Alter Rebbe now explains what is the meaning of the words, a "complete soul". All of a person's Divine service is connected to these kind of tears, of consciousness of the Divine, even while living in the world. This is the inner meaning of the verse "He that goes weeping on his way…shall come back with a joyous shout, carrying his sheaves." (Tehillim/Psalms 126:5). It is known that only part of a person's soul is in his body. If the entire soul were in the body, we would live forever since the soul, a portion of G-d from above, is eternal. Only a very tiny part of the soul is in the body, connected to our brain and heart, our intellect and emotions.

The primary part of the soul, a part of G-d from on high, is above, sourced in the highest levels of holiness and is always clinging and attached to G-d. This verse teaches us that when the time of Mashiach arrives, the Jewish people, even those in the most distant places, will be collected from the ends of the heavens. This is also a hinted reference to the soul of a Jew that is spread far and wide and also at times is reunited. This is what complete Teshuvah is. Teshuvah means "return" and refers to a person correcting his or her actions. Complete Teshuvah is returning the final letter Hai of G-d's four letter name, which is a reference to the part of the soul that is in the body being reunited to the more supernal level of the soul on high. This is what is meant by "a complete soul".

During the Ten Days of Teshuvah (Repentance) every Jew wants to do Teshuvah. Anyone who doesn't cry at this time, this means that his/her soul is not complete, s/he has not completed the process of Teshuvah as did Rabbi Akiva, each person according to their own personal level and ability. The point is that the service of the Ten Days of Teshuvah is to take what is higher than our intellect, what our brain cannot conceive of; that which is so high, beyond all limits, that all is naught before the Almighty, may He be blessed. I am so far away from Him because of my sins that separate me from Him. It is this meditation that brings a person to cry. A person who does not cry, who has not done complete Teshuvah, this is because the lower part of his/her soul is so entrenched in the world that it is cut off from the higher part of his soul. This is what the Psalmist was teaching, "He that goes weeping on his way", that person that feels fallen and more distant from G-d, that person is reuniting his/her soul and actually coming the closest.

Shabbat Shuva (this Shabbat before Yom Kippur) is the easiest time to experience this level.
Now is the time of galut, (exile), when we are struggling to go higher to push upward toward Divinity. This is called ratzu. However, when Mashiach comes all this effort to connect from below to above will result in a great downpouring of Divine energy from above to below, the shuv, the return. This is what the Psalmist says, "He that weeps will return with a big shout, carry his sheaves", these are the person's spiritual accomplishments. This is also the inner meaning of G-d's first command to the first Jew, Avraham, LechLecha, go to yourself - to your essence. Reconnect the part of the soul in the body with the part of the soul on high, the idea of complete Teshuvah through a '"complete" soul. And this will bring you to the highest spiritual levels - through crying.

The Chief Rabbi of Tsfat, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, taught the following On the 17th day of Tammuz Moshe broke the first Tablets of the Ten Commandments because of the sins of the Jewish people. On Yom Kippur, the 10th of Tishrei, 120 days later, Moshe came down with the second set of tablets. The main part of our connection to the Divine on Yom Kippur is to re-experience G-d's forgiveness and our receiving the second set of Tablets. During the days after Yom Kippur in the desert, Moshe commands the Jewish people about building the Tabernacle.

Not only is Yom Kippur about receiving the second set of tablets, we also received a physical place for G-d to dwell in this world, with a place, the Holy of Holies, that housed the Tablets. The inner heart of the Tabernacle was the Tablets. This is the special connection of Yom Kippur to the service in the Temple that we read so much about in the Machzor (festival prayerbook) The ultimate part of the service was the service of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies saying G-d's name. The most holy Jew, on the most holy day, in the most holy place. The closest to G-d. And the key to this process of coming closer to G-d is to shed a holy tear because we have reunited our soul with its source.

Shabbat Shalom & Gmar Chatima Tova, Shaul

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


Specifically, for an overview of the recommended articles in the columns:
Holy Zohar, Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary Kabbalists, and more, click to Ha'azinu
and Yom Kippur
one sample:

Mystical Classics

Israel: One Soul United

From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

"And the Eternal, your G-d, will circumcise your heart."

Since the time of Creation, man has had the power to do as he pleased, to be righteous or wicked, so that he may gain merit upon choosing the good and punishment for preferring evil. But in the days of the Mashiach, the choice of genuine good will be natural; the heart will not desire the improper and one will have no craving whatsoever for it.

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