Monday, September 21, 2009

Parashat Haazinu

This is the last portion of the Torah that is read on an ordinary Shabbat. The final portion, V'Zot Habrachah, is read on the holiday of Simhat Torah.

So what is noteworthy about this parasha?

First, most of it is written in the form of a poem. This is the second poem that Moshe has recited to the Israelites. What was the first?

Read the first poem here - in chapter 15, verses 1 - 19 of Exodus.

Read this week's poem here - in chapter 32, verses 1 - 43 of Deuteronomy

I'd like to suggest comparing these two poems in the following ways:
  1. What is the context in which the poem is recited? What has just happened in each case? What is about to happen?
  2. To whom is Moshe speaking in each case? In what way might that make a difference in the tone of the poems?
  3. What do you think is the purpose of each of these poems? In what way does each seek to accomplish its purpose?
  4. In your opinion, does either of the poems do what you believe it is trying to do? Explain why you think it does or does not.
  5. There are some scholars who believe that these two poems are actually older than the rest of the Torah. What would it mean to how you understand Torah if this were true?
  6. What do you think is the Big Idea in this parasha? Be ready to explain why you think so.

Another thing to think about:

The following verse appears in the parasha
ח בְּהַנְחֵל עֶלְיוֹן גּוֹיִם, {ס} בְּהַפְרִידוֹ בְּנֵי אָדָם; {ר} יַצֵּב גְּבֻלֹת עַמִּים, {ס} לְמִסְפַּר בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. {ר}
8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when God separated the children of men, God set the borders of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel.
Some scholars believe that the original text read:
"When the Most High established nations and split up the sons of men
He fixed the boundaries of peoples according to the number of gods."

What is different about these two texts? Why do you think it might have been changed? Which text makes more sense to you?

See you tomorrow, when we will discuss these and other issues in greater depth.
Comments? Criticisms? Suggestions? All welcome, as usual!

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