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The Strangest Love Song You’ll Ever Hear

Photo by Andres Ayrton on

This week’s Torah reading, comprised of Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52 and II Samuel 22:1 – 22:51,  is called “Ha’azinu” (“listen” – note that the Hebrew word “ozen” means “ear.”).

The Jewish people are gathered together on last day of Moses’ life.

You would think that he would speak gentle words to them, words of love and consolation and hope.

Well…sort of.

Moses recites a speech that is known as a “song” to the Jewish people.

However, much of this “song” consists of chastising the people in advance for the horrible things they will do after his death. Sins so bad, that God is inflamed with fury against us.

See for example these verses.

(Deuteronomy 32:5) Destruction is not His; it is His children’s defect you crooked and twisted generation. (6) Is this how you repay the Lord, you disgraceful, unwise people?! Is He not your Father, your Master? He has made you and established you.”

This isn’t exactly romantic.

(Deuteronomy 32:15) [Israel] forsook the God Who made them, and spurned the [Mighty] Rock of their salvation. (16)They provoked His zeal with alien worship; they made Him angry with abominations deeds. (17) They sacrificed to demons, which have no power, deities they did not know, new things that only recently came, which your forefathers did not fear. (18) You forgot the [Mighty] Rock Who bore you; you forgot the God Who delivered you.

These aren’t just a few isolated verses. Moses continues to prophesy, as if they had happened in the past, sins not even committed yet:

(19) And the Lord saw this and became angry, provoked by His sons and daughters. (20) And He said, “I will hide My face from them. I will see what their end will be, for they are a generation of changes; they are not [recognizable] as My children whom I have reared. (21) They have provoked My jealousy with a non god, provoked My anger with their vanities. Thus, I will provoke their jealousy with a non people, provoke their anger with a foolish nation. (22) For a fire blazed in My wrath, and burned to the lowest depths. It consumed the land and its produce, setting aflame the foundations of mountains. (23) I will link evils upon them. I will use up My arrows on them. (24) They will sprout hair from famine, attacked by demons, excised by Meriri. I will incite the teeth of livestock upon them, with the venom of creatures that slither in the dust. (25) From outside, the sword will bereave, and terror from within; young men and maidens, suckling babes with venerable elders.”

If it looks like God is fed up with us, it seems like He certainly is, as the verses tell us that we’re only saved because God doesn’t want our enemies to brag that they somehow “won” in their rebellion against Him.

(26) I said that I would make an end of them, eradicate their remembrance from mankind. (27) Were it not that the enemy’s wrath was heaped up, lest their adversaries distort; lest they claim, ‘Our hand was triumphant! The Lord did none of this!’ (28) For they are a nation devoid of counsel, and they have no understanding.”

The point of it all is twofold. First, God will repay people measure for measure for their deeds, and in the end will rescue us from our exile, despite our degraded and unworthy selves.

“(41) When I sharpen the blade of My sword, and My hand grasps judgment, I will bring vengeance upon My adversaries and repay those who hate Me. (42) I will intoxicate My arrows with blood, and My sword will consume flesh, from the blood of the slain and the captives, from the first breach of the enemy.’ (43) Sing out praise, O you nations, for His people! For He will avenge the blood of His servants, inflict revenge upon His adversaries, and appease His land [and] His people.”

Second, the Jewish people need to be warned in advance that God’s favor is not automatic. It is imperative to keep the Torah to avoid complacency, which leads in turn to calamity.

(46) And he said to them, “Set your hearts to all of the words which I bear witness for you this day, so that you may command your children to observe to do all the words of this Torah. (47) For it is not an empty thing for you, for it is your life, and through this thing, you will lengthen your days upon the land to which you are crossing over the Jordan, to possess it.”

There are different explanations as to why this seemingly negative group of verses is called a “song.”

But the simplest is that when a leader, a teacher or a parent only has a short time left, the pretty words aren’t much help.

Those who are remaining in the physical plane need real guidance to help them along.

So Moses told the people what they needed to hear.

You are going to sin, and God will save you, but if you want to do yourselves a favor, avoid all the troubles from the get-go.

This was the true love that Moses had for the Jewish people.

He didn’t want them to praise his flowery rhetoric, or the way he made them feel good about themselves.

He wanted to save their lives, regardless of what they might think of him using such words.

That is why Moses is considered the paragon of humility.

It is a leadership lesson.

“The greatest love of all,” as Whitney Houston sang, is the greatest selflessness.


By Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are the author’s own. Public domain.

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