Parashat Ha-Azinu: The Song without Any Preconditions

[Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Devarim p. 505-508 – edited by Rav Aviner]

The song "Ha-Azinu" briefly and broadly describes how the Master of the Universe leads the Nation of Israel from the Exodus out of Egypt, then the generation of the desert, and all of the generations until today and on to the end of days. The Torah portion begins: "Listen heavens…and hear earth" (Devarim 32:1), i.e. there is a cosmological value to all matters relating to Israel. The Ramban explained that this song is not dependent on Israel's repentance (ibid. verse 40). This idea is explicit in the prophet Yechezkel (36:22): "It is not for your sake, House of Israel, that I act," but for my sake, because there is disgrace and desecration of Hashem's Name. "Woe to the father who exiles his children" (Berachot 3a). It is impossible to continue enduring this desecration of Hashem's Name: "It was said of them: These are Hashem's Nation and they had to leave their Land" (Yechezkel 36:20). Therefore, "I sanctified My great name, which is desecrated among the nations… And I brought you to your Land" (ibid. 23-24). And then you will be healed.

We must first come home to the Land of Israel. This is established by the Ramban that the Land of Israel must be in our hands and not "in the hand of another one of the nations" (Additions to Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, Positive Mitzvah #4) as it says, "And you shall possess it and dwell in it" (Devarim 11:31). It is necessary to have a State. A land under control of a nation is none other than a state. The Ramban therefore says that there is no precondition: there will be the Redemption of Israel and their return to their Land. And then "He will forgive His Nation through His Land" (Devarim 32:43), since "the Air of the Land of Israel makes one wise" (Baba Batra 158b). We will first return to the Land and then we will be spiritually healed.

The Chafetz Chaim relates that Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin once asked the Vilna Gaon: We learn all positive character traits from Hashem based on "And follow His ways" (Sotah 14a explaining Devarim 13:5) – just as He is gracious and merciful, so too you should be gracious and merciful (Shabbat 133b). But where do we learn that Hashem is "happy with His Lot" (Avot 4:1), from which we learn the obligation to be happy with our lot? The Vilna Gaon answered: From the verse "For Hashem's portion is His Nation" (Devarim 32:9) from the song Ha-Azinu, since we are called His children whether we act correctly or not (Kiddushin 36a). Hashem is happy with His children even when we fail to act in the appropriate manner of being His children. This is a song with no strings attached.