Ha’azinu: Torah like Rain

Copyright 2012 Neal Joseph Loevinger

Torah Portion: Ha’azinu
 
May my discourse come down as the rain, my speech distill as the dew,
Like showers on young growth, Like droplets on the grass.  (D’varim/ Deuteronomy 32:2)

 
Good afternoon! 
 
I hope all who observed Yom Kippur this week had a good and introspective experience. 
The Days of Awe are observed together with many people, maybe hundreds or thousands, but at their best it’s a very individual experience as well, each one of us looking within to take stock and hold ourselves accountable to our higher ideals. 
 
This relates to a verse in this week’s Torah portion, Ha’azinu, which is Moshe’s penultimate discourse or sermon to the Israelites before he dies and they go on without him. The verse above is understood by the ancient rabbis to refer to Torah in general. The word translated as “discourse” can also mean “lesson” or “counsel,” so it’s easy to see why the rabbis would link the idea of Moshe’s “discourse” to the Torah that he has taught while serving as leader of the people. 
 
So why, they ask, is Torah compared to rain and dew? One text, quoted in the book Torah Temimah, says that Torah is like rain and dew because just as rain comes from one source, but waters each tree and plant which then produces fruit according to its individual natures, so too Torah is one, but each of us respond to it in a unique way. Torah “waters” each of us so that we may grow according to our individual capacity and talents. It is not meant to create robots or clones, but thinking, feeling, passionate people, each of whom will grow and act in Torah in in new and surprising ways. 
 
So too this season of the Days of Awe; we read the same prayers out of the same book, but have profoundly different experiences depending on challenges and setbacks and sins and triumphs of each individual life. Judaism can bring you to the edge of spiritual grown, but we all have to decide how to take the next step; nobody else can find your passion and bring forth your spirit. The rain waters grass and trees alike, but they grow differently; our teachings and  traditions need to be applied to the specific circumstances of each life, and only then will they bear fruit. 

Shabbat Shalom, 
 
RNJL 
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