Posts Tagged 'HaAzinu'

Pontification: The Pope and Our Parsha

Pope Francis‘s tour of the United States is all over the news. Even if he does not have any true nation-state power, this Pope has proven that he has tremendous influence as a world leader. As the Pope he is the  head of state and government of the Vatican City, which is an internationally recognized nation-state with an army, but I doubt that the Swiss Guards pose and real threat to anyone. With so many people swooning over him, it seems that they think that he is much more than just another Bono. I was thinking about his beyond rock-star status when reading Ha’Azinu, this week’s Torah portion. There we read:

Is this how you repay the Lord, you disgraceful, unwise people?! Is God not your Father, your Master? God has made you and established you. ( Deuteronomy 32:6)

Moshe is warning the people to recognize that God is the true Master and alone is responsible for the people’s existence. On the idea that God established you Rashi comments:

After making you a special nation, God established you upon every kind of firm base and foundation: your priests are from among yourselves; your prophets are from among yourselves, and your kings are from among yourselves. Indeed, you are like a city from which all resources are drawn. — (Sifrei 32:6)

On one level is interesting to imagine the nation a self-sufficient city. On another level it is amazing to see that in the Midrash that Rashi quotes that the greatness of the Jewish people comes from our leadership coming from our own ranks. This idea itself points to Pope Francis’s success.  He is not a rock star because he is on stage or holding his office, rather his greatness comes from his ability to connect authentically with his nation and the world. Pope Francis’s authenticity flows from his being one of the people.

Indeed, if you were to see Pope Frances the blessing you would say is:

Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the universe, Who has given of God’s glory to human beings.

As we learn in our Torah portion, the true glory comes from God. The true lesson in that the people who claim to represent God job is to truly represent their people and reflect that glory away from themselves, maybe even to God. If the Pope did not pursue this he would just be another guy with a Kippah going around New York City trying to do good and impress his mother.

Shut Up: An Accomplished TED New Year

At this time of year I imagine that I am in good company with many of you who are also struggling with your  New Year’s resolutions. I like many of you fall into the trap of sharing my aspirations for the coming year with other people. While you think it might create a sense of accountability, in reality telling people what you want to accomplish gives you the reward as if you already did the hard work. It seem to be counter-intuitive, but according to Derek Sivers,”Repeated psychology tests have proven that telling someone your goal makes it less likely to happen.” It is a wonderful and short TED talk. Take a look:

It seems if we want to accomplish all that we want to do in this coming year, we might be best served by shutting up.

This seems particularly poignant with Haazinu, this week’s Torah portion. Here we read the Song of Moses in which we learn of the indictment of the Israelites’ sins, the prophecy of their punishment, and the promise of God’s ultimate redemption of them. At the start of our portion we read, ” Give ear, you heavens, and I will speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.” ( Deuteronomy 32:1). And near the end of the Torah portion we read, ”  And when Moses made an end of speaking all these words to all Israel,  he said unto them: ‘Set your heart unto all the words wherewith I testify against you this day; that you may charge your children there with to observe to do all the words of this law.( Deuteronomy 32:45-46)Like Sivers teaches, if we want set our hearts “to observe to do all the words of this law” we need to shut up. We need to do less talking and more listening.  But, is it possible that all of our listened, praying, and saying that we did on Yom Kippur itself will get in the way of our accomplishments this coming year? Who am I to say?

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