Parshat Ha’azinu: Finding the Right Torah

Sefer Torah Scroll (Wannapik Studio)

Rabbi David Aaron once shared a thought that was so radical, so profound, that it initially came as an alien concept; in truth, its depth describes the very essence of Judaism. “If Torah is not helping you be you,” he said, “then you got the wrong Torah.” Of course, he did not literally mean that there is more than one Torah or that it can be distorted to appease anyone’s personal, subjective views on the world, themselves, or anything in between. In Parshat Ha’azinu, however, a deeper understanding of this line can be found, capturing the importance of finding our individuality in Torah and Judaism.

In the beginning of the parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu says to Bnei Yisrael, “May my discourse come down as the rain, my speech flow as the dew, like showers on young growth, like droplets on the grass” (Devarim 32:2). This pasuk’s poetic complexity is consistent with the rest of the parsha, and many commentaries offer insight into its inner workings.

Commenting on this pasuk, Rabbeinu Bahya explains that Moshe hopes that, like rain helps the development of sprouting vegetation, his words of Torah will promote growth to all who listen, giving them a fruitful experience of Torah. Along similar lines, Rashi comments on his simile “flow as the dew” to emphasize that everyone should rejoice with Torah; unlike rain, which can be joyful for farmers in a drought but burdensome for travelers, dew is welcomed by all.

Just from Rabbeinu Bahya and Rashi’s comments on this pasuk, a common theme already becomes clear: Torah is a vehicle for us to grow, to experience a blissful journey to bringing out our inner godliness; no matter a Jew’s background, upbringing, or current state, Torah is joyful for all. This begins to paint a brighter picture of the idea Rav Aaron shared.

In Sefer Mishlei, Shlomo HaMelech famously writes about Torah that “It is a tree of life for those who grasp it, and happy is anyone who holds it” (3:18). This speaks a similar language to what’s been elucidated from the pasuk in Ha’azinu, but the Zohar takes it a step further.

The Zohar writes that all Jews are inherently strengthened when they grasp onto the “tree of life,” referring to Torah. It says, “They all hold onto the tree, but some of them hold on to the trunk, some to the branches, some to the leaves, and some to the roots. It seems, therefore, that they hold onto the Tree of Life” (1:193a:9). Essentially, the Torah is not something grasped in totality by any singular person, school of thought, or sect. It’s the tree of life, with leaves, twigs, branches, roots, and a trunk — all of which are tightly held by many different Jews.

Rav Kook encapsulates this idea beautifully: “Indeed, when one walks down this secure path, one’s own unique trail, in a way of righteousness that is unique to oneself, one is filled with the strength of life and the joy of spirituality. The light of God will shine upon such a person, and strength and light will come from one’s special letter in the Torah” (Shmoneh Kevatzim 4:6).[1]  

When Hashem gifted us with the Torah, its purpose was not to create uniformity like robots, nor was that preferable. Rather, we must all find where our hands formatively fit on the tree of life, where the form fits so naturally that it touches us deep within. Rav Aaron said as much, urging us to find the Torah that speaks to our souls and uniquely helps us become our best selves.

[1] As translated by Rabbi Ari Ze’ev Schwartz in “The Spiritual Revolution of Rav Kook,” p. 18

About the Author
Sruli Fruchter studied for one year at Yeshivat Orayta and is now studying International and Global Affairs at Yeshiva University. He enjoys writing on a spectrum of topics, specifically on the weekly parsha.
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