A Stark Covenantal Reminder! Quick comment: Parashat Ha’azinu (Deuteronomy 32: 1-52)

What powerful words begin the poem that comprises this week’s Torah portion: “Give ear O heavens … listen well, O earth. Let God’s words fall like the dew and rain that nourish the grass.”

We quote part of this poem when we accompany one who has died to his or her final place of rest:

“God is the rock whose works are worthy, and all God’s paths are just … and right”

Sadly the significance of that line at such an emotional moment has been all but lost. The words it contains, תמים, משפט and צדיק take us back to the foundational Covenant that God first made with Abraham.

God charged Abraham with these three trigger words, and they underlie our faith to this day: To be תמים (worthy) and to live a life–and teach his offspring to live lives–marked by צדקה (same root as צדיק) and משפט (justice and righteousness).

When we accompany the dead to his or her grave these words should challenge us:

Just as the person whose life has ended lived up (and here we are happy to give the individual the benefit of any doubt) to his or her Covenantal obligations, so must we.

As far as God’s other charge to Abraham, “Be a Blessing” (Genesis 12:2), our poem references it by mentioning the blessing of God’s rain and dew. We shall only merit these necessities to sustain life on earth if we do a better job than we are now of taking care of it.

Put differently: we only deserve God’s blessing of life and sustenance (See Leviticus 26:3 ff) if we through our acts of justice, caring and compassion make our lives blessings to the lives others.

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