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Parashat Ha'Azinu - 5777

Ha'Azinu is the last portion that is read during services on a Shabbat morning. The last of all portions is "Vezot Habracha" - "this is the blessing" - which is read on Simhat Torah, when we complete the reading of all Five Books of Moses and start over with Bereshit, the first portion from Genesis.

Ha'azinu consists entirely of a poem which Moses wrote and which he asked his people to study throughout the generations. He calls upon Heaven and Earth, which are eternal, to be the witnesses as to what he has to say. He reviews G-d's experiences with the Jewish people and their history from their ancestors, their liberation from slavery, through their settlement in Israel. The Midrash states: "Great is this poem, for it contains the present, the past, the future and the afterlife." The witnesses to this 3000 year relationship between G-d and Israel, between Israel and its land, and between Israel and the nations, are Heaven and Earth.

Most commentaries read in this poem many of Israel's great exulting events as well as the calamities the Children of Israel have suffered. Did Moses know that after 3000 years there will arise nations who will demonize the Jewish people and the State of Israel, and would attempt to erase its historical connection to the Land of Israel? Is that why he called upon Heaven and Earth to be the witnesses?

Consider what happened just yesterday: In Paris, UNESCO, a United Nations committee comprised of 58 nations, discussed a resolution that would deny any Jewish historical connection to the Temple Mount, the Kotel, the Wall, the Old City, nd any historical Jewish presence in Jerusalem. The resolution uses only the Islamic name for the hilltop compound. It even failed to call Israel by her name, but only as the Occupying Power. Twenty-four nations approved the resolution, 26 abstained and only six voted against the resolution. The World Jewish Congress had this to say:

"UNESCO is venomously denying the Jewish people's millenium-old roots in Jerusalem. Jews in Jerusalem have a long history that began more than 3000 years ago when King David established Jerusalem as the first capital of the Jewish people. Yet, despite being in the city for thousands of years, many of our holiest sites have been taken from us, time and again. Since the destruction of the Second Temple, Jews have always had a strong presence in Jerusalem.


Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reacted this way:

"Today that organization adopted another delusional decision stating that the Jewish People have no connection to the Temple Mount or the Western Wall. Even if they do not read the Bible, I would suggest that UNESCO members visit the Arch of Titus in Rome. On it one can see what the Romans brought back to Rome after they destroyed and looted the Second Temple on the Temple Mount 2,000 years ago. There, engraved on the Arch of Titus, is the seven-branched menorah that is the symbol of the Jewish People and, I remind you, is also the symbol of the Jewish state today. Soon, UNESCO will say that the Emperor Titus engaged in Zionist propaganda," he quipped.

"To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that the Chinese have no connection to the Great Wall of China and the Egyptians have no connection to the pyramids," he added. "By this absurd decision, UNESCO has lost what little legitimacy it had left."

This Shabbat, when you hear the words of Moses:

"Ha-azinu Hashamyim Va-adaberah, Vetishmah Ha-Aretz, Imrei Phi"

"Give ear, O heavens, let me speak;
Let the earth hear the words I utter!"

think of Moses' eternal vision of Israel's struggles throughout the millennia; but take heart - he also predicted Redemption and peace.

Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameah! Sukkot begins this Sunday evening - the Festival of Joy. Be Happy!