This week's portion, Haazinu, starts off with the word “Haazinu,” meaning “to listen” in Hebrew. We are being asked to listen to Moses’ song to the Israelites. The song will be his last words as he will soon pass away. The most notable line of Moses’ song is where he proclaims, “G-d is a faithful G-d who does no wrong, upright and just...” (Deut 32:4).
When reading these words, one cannot help but wonder, if G-d does no wrong, why is there evil in the world? If G-d does no wrong, why is there racism? Why do amazing people like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg even die? How can it be that bad things happen to good people?
Many have asked this question and although none has reached any successful conclusion, I think it is one of the most incredible aspects of Judaism. We live our lives with a Creator who does no wrong, yet we often find ourselves with crises of faith. We see things that we don’t understand, and we ask questions that we cannot answer. It is these moments that challenge our faith and perhaps take us down a dangerous path that leaves us without any attachment to our religion or even peoplehood.
Yet, the beauty of Judaism is that it is never too late to change and the door is always open for us to come back. Judaism gives us the space, time, and opportunity to reflect and better ourselves at a time when we need it the most. Upon a death, family members sit shiva for a period of seven days, allowing for grief and sadness. Following this, there is a thirty-day period of mourning. This time, set out in our religion, allows us to grieve, to share, and to understand our emotions. Similarly, we also have set time for Teshuvah, the idea of return or repentance. The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur form the Ten Days of Repentance, the highlight of which is this Shabbat, Shabat Shuvah (The Shabbat of Repentance).
As we head into Shabbat Shuvah, we are reminded that we still have the opportunity to better ourselves in the year to come. As Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks said, “If bad things have happened, let us blame no one but ourselves, and let us labor to make them better.” Although harsh, Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks makes a good point. As we head into the new year, we have to focus inward to analyze what we can each do as individuals to make the world a better place.
In this week's Parsha, the word “Yeshurun” is used for the first time in the Torah. The word comes from the root Yashar, meaning upright. G-d is described as “upright” because G-d can do no wrong. But I believe that as we head into this season of reflection and renewal, we can each work on ourselves, righting our wrongs and making us upright as well.
G’mar Chatima Tovah,
Ryan Kassanoff | North Texas Oklahoma Region’s 36th Regional Aleph Shaliach
Read commentary on this week's Parsha from BBYO teens around the world.
All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.
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