Another Yom Kippur has come and gone; we have communally and individually celebrated, reflected, and atoned. Now we shift our focus toward the conclusion of our cycle of Torah readings with parshat Ha’azinu, the penultimate portion of the Torah. In a few days we begin the Jewish harvest holiday of Sukkot followed by Simchat Torah – a holiday whose name literally means “joyous celebration of Torah.” Then we start over as we do each year with Genesis – and the cycle begins anew.
Endings and beginnings, beginnings and endings. I’m reminded of that popular song from the 90s by the band Semisonic – “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Ha’azinu is the epitome of this cycle, for the parsha is Moses’ farewell speech to the Israelites. He reflects, at times with pride and at others lament; yet the centrality of God is paramount throughout. Just as Moses bids farewell, the Israelites gear up for their new chapter in the Promised Land. It is a strange juxtaposition between old and new; between ending and beginning, between life and death.
The parallel between Ha’azinu’s message and the passage of time in our Jewish community is no accident. In these days our transitions are abundant – from year to year, season to season (hello, autumn!) chag (holiday) to chag, school year to school year and Deuteronomy to Genesis. In these sacred days, may we continue to pay attention to those transitions, reflecting on the centrality of our Jewish community and our belief in something greater than ourselves.
Rabbi Jaclyn Cohen