Parashat Ha’azinu is the last Torah portion we read on a regular Shabbat. The next one will be read on Simchat Torah to complete another Torah reading cycle.
It’s very telling that we read this parasha, a poem, after Yom Kippur. Why? Because the text matches the spirit and purpose of the High Holidays: self introspection, acknowledging our wrongdoings, mending broken relationships, seeking forgiveness, and the possibility of second chances.
The poem really begins in the previous portion, when God tells Moses to assemble the people and instructs him to teach them this poem. God knows that in the future they will go astray, worshiping other gods, and they will abandon Him. By doing so, they will follow the ways of other nations, learn their culture, and not live according to the way of life the Torah teaches.
So, God knows we are going to break up with Him, and then a lot of bad things are going to befall us: Our enemies will prevail, we will suffer economic hardship, we will even be scattered in exile to diaspora. But God is giving us a tool to return, to come back to the ideal situation when Israel and God where partners in teaching the world how to live a life both in a material and spiritual way, while building a just society. “Therefore, write down this poem and teach it to the people of Israel; put it in their mouths, in order that this poem may be a witness against the people of Israel” (Deuteronomy 31:19).
The poem starts with admonition, but ends with forgiveness and consolation.
As we read Ha’azinu it will be easy to understand our need to go back to the right path of life. Our High Holidays were designed to be a process of change for the better. Our liturgy, as we find in the machzor, is full of poetry leading us to that way.
In the light of Ha’azinu, maybe we can say that Yom Kippur is not only a Day of Atonement, but also an opportunity for reconciliation.
Gmar chatimah tova.