On Sunday night we begin the wonderful celebratory holiday of Sukkot — the one Jewish holiday which it is explicitly called זמן שמחתינו – “time of our joy.” Among the many blessings we celebrate on Sukkot are the blessings of nature– of rain, of bounty, of shelter provided by natural materials and of the stars we see through the schach of our sukkot.
This week we study parshat Ha’azinu and the middah: “listen for God’s voice in natural surroundings.” The word Ha’azinu is the Hebrew verb based on the same root as the word “ozen,” ear. Ha’azinu means “listen!”, or more literally, “incline your ears to hear!” Interestingly, the word “ear” is also contained in the English verb “hear.” Parshat Ha’azinu marks the high poetic moment in Moshe’s long parting speech to the people of Israel. Yet, it begins not by Moshe calling for the people to listen, but rather it begins by Moshe calling upon the heavens and the earth to hear his speech: האזינו השמים ואדברה, תשמע הארץ אמרי פי. “Incline your ear, oh heavens and I will speak; listen earth to the words of my voice.” The verse makes us wonder: Does the earth listen? Do the heavens have ears?
A few verses later Moshe continues his poetic speech: “May my teaching descend like the rain; may my speech flow like the dew.” These lines of poetry suggest that speech and dew, teaching and rain have something in common. This week we considered how the creations of nature have something to teach us, something to say to us in their own way. We recall that God created the world through speech:
— ברוך שאמר והיה העולם —
and that God’s speech may continue to echo in a certain way through the creations. We learned about Rabbi Nachman of Braslav who preferred to pray in the outdoors and who once declared:
“Oh, how I wish I could hear and understand all of the songs and praises of each blade of grass as it thanks the Almighty with all its heart, without any ulterior motives or expectations that the Almighty reward it. How nice and sweet it is to listen to their songs – it’s so uplifting to praise the Almighty in awe amongst them.”
Our middah this week is “Listen for God’s voice in natural surroundings.” We practised doing this by closing our eyes and imagining ourselves in our favourite place in nature. We imagined opening up our ears to let all the sounds enter our bodies, minds and souls. We wondered if the feelings these sounds awoke in us was an experience of the awe and wonder of God.
On Sunday night we begin the wonderful celebratory holiday of Sukkot — the one Jewish holiday which it is explicitly called זמן שמחתינו — “time of our joy.” Among the many blessings we celebrate on Sukkot are the blessings of nature — of rain, of bounty, of shelter provided by natural materials. As always, this holiday also falls on the full moon. But this year we have a unique opportunity on Erev Sukkot to witness a full lunar eclipse. We have so many opportunities to listen for God’s voice and God’s teaching in the amazing creations of the world.
Shabbat Shalom Vechag Sameach,