Shabbat Ha-azinu 5773

We are a little more than a week away from a big transitional moment in the Jewish year. On Shmini ‘Atzeret, we will begin mentioning God’s ability to bring rain–geshem–after six months of mentioning dew–tal. When it comes to sustaining the Land of Israel, the difference between rain and dew is clearly linked to the calendar. There’s a rainy season, and there’s an entirely not-rainy season.

 But this isn’t the only place our tradition juxtaposes rain and dew. In Moshe’s farewell poem to his charges, which is the core of this week’s parashahHa-azinu, he uses the two in contrast. 

Ya’arof kamatar likhi/tizal katal imrati”

“May my discourse come down as rain/My speech distill as the dew”

(Deuteronomy 32:2)

Not surprisingly, the rabbis equated Moshe’s “discourse” and “speech” with words of Torah, since Torah was the content of their discourses and speeches. But here is a note of surprise: words of Torah, they say, are like rain and dew in that they can be either nourishing or destructive.  Really? The Sages imagine that words of Torah can be destructive, or counter-productive? How could that be?

On Shabbat morning, we will look at some midrashic comments on this verse, and we’ll see if we can give meaning to the idea that Torah can be like rain or dew. And I am confident that you will come away with a new appreciation for the genius of the rabbis! 

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi David Wise