Parashas Haazinu / Haftaras Shuvah

In this week’s parashah, Moshe delivers a final rebuke to the Jewish People. In the course of this rebuke, he declares, speaking in Hashem’s name (Devarim 32:21): “They have provoked Me with a non-god, angered Me with their vanities. Hence I shall provoke them with a non-people – with a vile nation I shall anger them.” In the introduction to Sefer HaMiddos, the Maggid interprets this verse with a homiletical reading of “a non-god” as “no God.” He notes that there are two types of mitzvos. One type consists of decrees from God, which would not have been formulated by man on his own. The other type consists of common-sense rules of conduct, of a kind which man has formulated on his own. This latter category includes the duty to avoid murder, lying, and stealing, to show compassion for others, to act modestly and temperately, and so on.
When God tells us that we have provoked Him with “no God” and angered Him with “vanities,” He is telling us that we have provoked Him by violating the natural standards of human behavior – the rules we ought to follow us even without His intervention – and committing inane acts unbecoming of a human being. As punishment, measure for measure, God provokes against us a non-people – a rabble lacking basic human decency.
In the haftarah, Hoshea tells us (verse 14:2): “Return, O Israel, up to (ad) Hashem, Your God.” The Maggid explains that the choice of the term ad (rather than, for example, el) bears the message that the process of repentance is a progression from the bottom up. We must begin by striving to make ourselves into menschen, committing ourselves to correct any failings in the area of basic human decency. Only after initiating a proper effort to address such basics can we turn our attention to the special laws Hashem legislated for us to make us a holy people.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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