Parshat Ha’azinu: The Song of Torah

A Torah Scroll (Wiki Commons)

Songs resonate deep within us, stirring something inside. In Parshat Ha’azinu, it says Moshe spoke to Bnei Yisrael “et kol divrei hashira hazot,” translated as “all the words of this song.” Nechama Leibowitz developed a beautiful idea on this which generates a renewed appreciation for Hashem’s Torah.

According to the Ralbag, given earlier pesukim which contextualize Moshe speaking to Bnei Yisrael, this “song” undoubtedly refers to all five books of the Torah along with his literal song from the previous pesukim.

Nechama points out, however, that the Ralbag does not address why this is. The Hebrew word for “song” indicates poetry—why should the Torah be called poetry?

The Netziv explains this characterization to reveal a fundamental aspect of learning Torah: it has the dual nature of both poetry and prose. Prose is constructed in a straightforward structure, plainly setting forth an idea. Poetry, however, can be heavily misunderstood if it was accepted for its literal words.

Poetry is a form of writing which requires further explanation and analysis to elicit the allusions compressed within its many expressions. Studying Torah like one would a history book leaves one remiss of the intrinsic lessons compacted in the pesukim.

It has nothing superfluous, no extra phrase, word, or even letter. Straining over the structure of a pasuk, struggling to internalize what Hashem was saying to us, captures its essence. We must remember, though, that it is not exclusively allegory and homily—it is both poetry and prose. The beauty and love of Torah are truly appreciated through an in-depth analysis, guided by the wisest commentators and rebbeim, revealing profundity upon profundity.

Why does this practically matter? What benefit does this information serve?

Well, if we want to taste even a droplet of the eternal, divine wisdom inherent in the Torah, we must wear the bifocals which allow us to see both of these aspects. Only then can we begin to feel its essence, sparking ourselves to yearn for it.

Now, when we approach any aspect of the Torah, we must be aware of this reality. Can one skim through sections of the Chumash or the weekly parsha and truly say they understood it?

In order to dive into its breadth of meaning, we must learn it in such a way, lest we mistaken our own shortcomings as the Torah’s.

Later in Ha’azinu, Moshe says, “For [the Torah] is no vain thing for you.” In Yerushalmi, Pe’ah, it explains that “for you” means if the Torah feels worthless, dry, or vain, then it is not the text that is at fault—it is you; you did not labor in it, that is why it seems meager.

We often search elsewhere to find what we desire in life, whether it be intellectual rigor, philosophical ideas, ethics, moral virtues, etc. Unbeknownst to many, we are sitting on a treasure chest with no bottom, endlessly filled with diamonds and pearls, gold and silver. Hashem’s Torah is a divine work, and when we struggle to learn it, we seek to attain divine knowledge. Studying Torah exposes its transcendent and divine nature.

When the song of Torah can flow through our ears and be felt on our lips, we will delve into it and begin to truly love it.

About the Author
Sruli Fruchter studied for one year at Yeshivat Orayta and is now a student at Yeshiva University. He enjoys writing on a spectrum of topics, including the weekly parsha and the Palestinian-Israel conflict.
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