By Iris Danziger MD
In September of 2019 we prepared to send our third and youngest child to college. This was of course an exciting time for her as she embarked on a new stage of her life, one filled with emotional, interpersonal and academic challenges. She would have much more independence and some new responsibilities. She knew we would not always be there to intervene or provide reassurance and advice on the spot. We wanted to do something special for her before she left and just by chance her favorite childhood boy band had reunited and was coming to Buffalo. I secured tickets at the last minute and on the day before she left we surprised her. That night she sang along with them to every song, tears in her eyes. She knew every word. The evening was a spectacular success. However, little did we know, just 5 months later, she would be returning home to quarantine as a result of a worldwide pandemic.
In this week’s parsha, Ha’azinu, we similarly find an example of epic change for the people Israel. Moshe knows he is nearing the end of his life. He wants everyone to hear and remember his last message, and so he speaks to the people in lyrical form. The word Ha’azinu means listen and the format being in song is a way to help us learn and remember his important last message. In this song Moshe will tell the story of our past, present and future. He will foretell of danger but also of hope. Moshe will then ascend Mt Nebo, see the land of Cannan and die there. There will be leadership but no longer will there be an intermediary. This will be a new stage in our people’s history. The people will have much more independence, they will have to develop their own spiritual relationship, study their ancient texts and ask for help directly. There would be emotional, relational and academic challenges, spiritually speaking.
We are at the end of the 5 books of Moshe. We have gone from creation, the story of individuals, a family, a people and a society. The people Israel had been protected, given laws and guidance while Moshe lived but without him they would need to accept the consequences of their actions. We too are a generation without Moshe. We must balance fear and resolve as we move forward. We have all the tools to get us through this difficult time. Whether it’s going to college, dealing with an empty nest or a worldwide pandemic. The Torah, our texts and commentaries are filled with strategies that can help us to create a better life and a better world. We just have to Ha’azinu, listen.
Shana Tova! Wishing you a sweet, happy and healthy New Year as well as an easy and meaningful fast this Yom Kippur.
Iris Danziger MD is is an Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose & Throat) Specialist, an active leader at Temple Beth Tzedek, and serves on the board of Buffalo Jewish Federation.