Orayta Parsha Study Group: Ha'azinu - האזינו

This parsha is all poetry. Biblical poetry consists of semantic parallelism, two parallel phrases that seemingly say the same thing with different words. Thus, we can use the parallels to decipher difficult words. An important debate is whether the two phrases say the same thing or convey subtly different ideas.

1) Are rain and dew symbolically synonymous? Where else in Tanakh does לקח refer to the divine word? See Ibn Ezra and Sforno.

(ב) יַעֲרֹ֤ף כַּמָּטָר֙ לִקְחִ֔י {ס} תִּזַּ֥ל כַּטַּ֖ל אִמְרָתִ֑י כִּשְׂעִירִ֣ם עֲלֵי־דֶ֔שֶׁא {ס} וְכִרְבִיבִ֖ים עֲלֵי־עֵֽשֶׂב׃

(2) May my discourse come down as the rain,
My speech distill as the dew,
Like showers on young growth,
Like droplets on the grass.

(א) יערף. מגזרת יערף מזבחותם כטעם ירד: (ב) לקחי. מה שיקח אחד ממנו כטעם למוד וכן כי לקח טוב: (ג) כשעירם. הנכון בעיני שהם דקים: (ד) וכרביבים. מגזרת רב ושניהם שמות התאר והעד כי עשב חזק מדשא. וי״‎א כי שעירים מגזרת שער ואחרים אמרו מגזרת סערת ה' ואם הוא בשי״‎ן וכן וישתער עליו כמו ויסתער עליו גם יתכן שאין לו אח במקרא והנה הטעם כפול כדרך כל הנבואות לחזוק ועיקר הטעם שהתפלל משה שיהיו דבריו כטל וכמטר שלא ישובו ריקם כי אם הרוו את הארץ כי כן כתוב והטע' שיכנסו דבריו בלבו' השומעי' כמעשה הגשם על הארץ להולידה ולהצמיחה:

(1) SHALL DROP. The word ya’arof (shall drop) is related to the word ya’arof (he will break down) in He will break down their altars (Hos. 10:2). The meaning of ya’arof (shall drop) is will come down. (2) MY DOCTRINE. Likchi (My doctrine) refers to that which one will take away from him. It means a lesson. Compare, lekech (doctrine) in For I give you a good doctrine (Prov. 4:2). (3) AS THE SMALL RAIN. I believe that se’irim (small rain) refers to light rain. (4) AND AS THE SHOWERS. The word revivim (showers) is related to the word rav (numerous). They are adjectives. The fact that esev (herb) is stronger than deshe (tender grass) is proof of this. Some say that se’irim (small rain) is related to sa’ar (hair). Others say that it is related to the word sa’arat (storm of) in storm of God (Jer. 30:23) even though se’irim is spelled with a sin. Similarly, the phrase ve-yista’er alav (shall come against him like a whirlwind) (Dan. 11:40), which is spelled with a sin, means the same as ve-yista’er alav spelled with a samekh. It is also possible that the word se’irim has no brother in Scripture. Our verse repeats itself for emphasis, as is the style in all prophecies. The essence of our verse is that Moses prayed that his words be like dew and rain which, as it is written, do not return unfulfilled but water the earth. The meaning of the latter is that Moses’ words should enter the hearts of those who hear them in the same way that the rain affects the earth and fructifies it and causes it to produce plants.
(א) יערוף כמטר לקחי. הנה תורתי היא תערוף ותבא בשטף כמטר למבינים המוכנים לקבל מבוע מקור חכמה: (ב) תזל כטל אמרתי ונותנת ג''כ כפי הנגלה ממנה איזו ידיעה להדיוטות שעם היותה מועטת היא טובה מאד כטל באופן שהיא כשעירים עלי דשא שהמשכילים יביטו נפלאות ממנה. וכרביבים עלי עשב שגם ההדיוטות יקנו בה איזה מדע להכיר בו בוראם באופן מה. א''כ אתם ישראל שקבלתם אותה:
(1) יערוף כמטר לקחי, here my teachings will pour down and flow without interruption like rain for those who understand and are prepared to receive it from the fountain, the source of wisdom. (2) תזל כטל אמרתי, and it too will contribute in accordance with the information which has been revealed to ordinary people. Even though these scraps of information are sparse, they are as useful to the recipients as is dew for the grass. The reason is that both in quantity and quality it is כשעירים עלי דשא, intelligent people can discern wonderful insights by listening to these words of mine; [וכרביבים עלי עשב, עשב being coarse, unrefined grass, it is a simile for coarse unrefined people. Ed.] even the most ordinary, uneducated people will acquire some knowledge by listening to what I have to say. It will help them to recognise and appreciate their Maker.
2) What does קנך mean (use the parallel)? See Bereishit 4:1.
(ו) הַ לְיְהֹוָה֙ תִּגְמְלוּ־זֹ֔את {ס} עַ֥ם נָבָ֖ל וְלֹ֣א חָכָ֑ם הֲלוֹא־הוּא֙ אָבִ֣יךָ קָּנֶ֔ךָ {ס} ה֥וּא עָשְׂךָ֖ וַֽיְכֹנְנֶֽךָ׃

(6) Do you thus requite the LORD,
O dull and witless people?
Is not He the Father who created you—
Fashioned you and made you endure!

(א) וְהָ֣אָדָ֔ם יָדַ֖ע אֶת־חַוָּ֣ה אִשְׁתּ֑וֹ וַתַּ֙הַר֙ וַתֵּ֣לֶד אֶת־קַ֔יִן וַתֹּ֕אמֶר קָנִ֥יתִי אִ֖ישׁ אֶת־יְהֹוָֽה׃
(1) Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gained a male child with the help of the LORD.”
3) Are אביך and זקינך synonymous? See Rashi and Ibn Ezra.
(ז) זְכֹר֙ יְמ֣וֹת עוֹלָ֔ם בִּ֖ינוּ שְׁנ֣וֹת דֹּר־וָדֹ֑ר {ס} שְׁאַ֤ל אָבִ֙יךָ֙ וְיַגֵּ֔דְךָ זְקֵנֶ֖יךָ וְיֹ֥אמְרוּ לָֽךְ׃

(7) Remember the days of old,
Consider the years of ages past;
Ask your father, he will inform you,
Your elders, they will tell you:

שאל אביך. אֵלּוּ הַנְּבִיאִים שֶׁנִּקְרָאִים אָבוֹת, כְּמוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (מלכים ב ב') בְּאֵלִיָּהוּ "אָבִי אָבִי רֶכֶב יִשְׂרָאֵל" (ספרי): (ד) זקניך. אֵלּוּ הַחֲכָמִים: (ה) ויאמרו לך. הָרִאשׁוֹנוֹת:

(3) שאל אביך ASK THY FATHER — these are the prophets who are termed fathers, as it is stated in the history of Elijah that Elisha exclaimed when Elijah departed, (2 Kings 2:12): “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel!” (cf. Sifrei Devarim 310:3). (4) זקניך THY ELDERS — these are the sages, (5) ויאמרו לך AND THEY WILL TELL THEE the events of the former days:

(ג) שאל אביך. בעבור שאמר זכור אם שכחת מה שספרו לך אבותיך שאל אותם: (ד) ויגדך. כמו ויגד לך. וכן כי ארץ הנגב נתתני. בני יצאוני: (ה) זקניך. הטעם כפל כי כן דרך צחות:

(3) ASK THY FATHER. Scripture states this because it earlier said Remember. If you forgot what your fathers told you, ask them. (4) AND HE WILL DECLARE UNTO THEE. Ve-yaggedekha means and he will declare unto thee. Compare, netattani (thou hast given to me) in for that thou hast given to me in the Southland (Josh. 15:19). And yetzauni (are gone forth of me) in My children are gone forth of me (Jer. 10:20). (5) THINE ELDERS. Scripture repeats itself, for it is elegant to do so.

4) How does this pasuk serve as a source for the midrashic idea of 70 nations? See Rashi. For an alternative reading, see Rashbam.

(ח) בְּהַנְחֵ֤ל עֶלְיוֹן֙ גּוֹיִ֔ם {ס} בְּהַפְרִיד֖וֹ בְּנֵ֣י אָדָ֑ם יַצֵּב֙ גְּבֻלֹ֣ת עַמִּ֔ים {ס} לְמִסְפַּ֖ר בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

(8) When the Most High gave nations their homes
And set the divisions of man,
He fixed the boundaries of peoples
In relation to Israel’s numbers.

(א) בהנחל עליון גוים. כְּשֶׁהִנְחִיל הַקָּבָּ"ה לְמַכְעִיסָיו אֶת חֵלֶק נַחֲלָתָן הֱצִיפָן וּשְׁטָפָם: (ב) בהפרידו בני אדם. כְּשֶׁהֵפִיץ דּוֹר הַפַּלָּגָה הָיָה בְיָדוֹ לְהַעֲבִירָם מִן הָעוֹלָם, לֹא עָשָׂה כֵן אֶלָּא יצב גבלת עמים, קִיְּמָם וְלֹא אִבְּדָם: (ג) למספר בני ישראל. בִּשְׁבִיל מִסְפַּר בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁעֲתִידִין לָצֵאת מִבְּנֵי שֵׁם, וּלְמִסְפַּר שִׁבְעִים נֶפֶשׁ שֶׁל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁיָּרְדוּ לְמִצְרַיִם הִצִּיב גבלת עמים — שִׁבְעִים לָשׁוֹן:
(1) בהנחל עליון גוים WHEN THE MOST HIGH DIVIDED TO THE NATIONS THEIR INHERITANCE — when the Holy One, blessed be He gave those who provoked Him to anger their inheritance, He afterwards caused the flood to pass over them and He drowned them (Sifrei Devarim 311:1) (2) בהפרידו בני אדם WHEN HE SEPARATED THE SONS OF ADAM — i.e. when He scattered the generation which witnessed the separation of races, He also had the power to remove them from the world, yet He did not do so, but יצב גבלת עמים HE FIRMLY ESTABLISHED THE BOUNDARIES OF THE NATIONS — He let them (the peoples) remain in existence and did not destroy them, (3) למספר בני ישראל ACCORDING TO THE NUMBER OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL — i.e. because of the number of the children of Israel that were in future to descend from Shem’s sons, and in accordance with the number of seventy souls of the children of Israel who went down to Egypt He firmly established גבלת עמים THE NATIONS ACCORDING TO THEIR BOUNDARIES — i.e. seventy separate nations (cf. Sifrei Devarim 311:5).
(א) בהנחל עליון גוים - שנתן להם נחלות. (ב) בהפרידו בני אדם - אחר מיתת נח ובימי אברהם שכתוב שם: משם נפרדו איי הגוים איש ללשונו, ושם תמצא שהציב גבולות עמים. בני כנען שנים עשר כנגד מספר בני יעקב שהיו שנים עשר. שתמצא כנען וי"א בניו שנים עשר וכתיב שם: ויהי גבול הכנעני מצידון וגו' - לפי שכל אלו היו לישראל, אבל בכל שאר בני נח לא פירש בהם שום גבול. ושוב מצאתי כמה פנים במדרש למספר בני ישראל - כי כנען ובניו כמו כך שנים עשר הם.
(1) בהנחל עליון גוים, when He assigned to them ancestral lands (2) בהפרידו בני אדם, after the death of Noach and the time of Avraham about which the Torah wrote (Genesis 10,5) “from this point on they separated, branched out by their respective lands, each with its language, etc.” יצב גבולות עמים, twelve descendants of Canaan (Genesis 10,6) mentioned in that context in that chapter of Genesis, corresponding to the eventual 12 tribes of Israel. Canaan and his 11 sons amounted to twelve. (Genesis 10,15-18) The Torah describes the boundaries of the Canaanites as extending from Tzidon in the north to Gerar, near Gaza in the south, and Sodom in the east. This entire region became the land of Israel during the conquest commencing in the days of Joshua, except for the coastal plains inhabited by the Philistines which was conquered many hundreds of years later, and Jerusalem which was captured by David. The Torah does not give details of the boundaries of the territories of any of the other sons of Noach. למספר בני ישראל, matching the number of the Children of Israel.
5) What does the word תשיmean (use the parallel)? What biblical name is based on that word? See Bereishit 41:51.
(יח) צ֥וּר יְלָדְךָ֖ תֶּ֑שִׁי וַתִּשְׁכַּ֖ח אֵ֥ל מְחֹלְלֶֽךָ׃ {ס}
(18) You neglected the Rock that begot you,
Forgot the God who brought you forth.
(נא) וַיִּקְרָ֥א יוֹסֵ֛ף אֶת־שֵׁ֥ם הַבְּכ֖וֹר מְנַשֶּׁ֑ה כִּֽי־נַשַּׁ֤נִי אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־כׇּל־עֲמָלִ֔י וְאֵ֖ת כׇּל־בֵּ֥ית אָבִֽי׃
(51) Joseph named the first-born Manasseh, meaning, “God has made me forget completely my hardship and my parental home.”