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Haazinu, Ha'azinu, or Ha'Azinu (הַאֲזִינוּHebrew for "listen" when directed to more than one person, the first word in the parashah) is the 53rd weekly Torah portion (פָּרָשָׁה, parashah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the 10th in the book of Deuteronomy. It constitutes Deuteronomy 32:1–52. The parashah is made up of 2,326 Hebrew letters, 614 Hebrew words, and 52 verses, and can occupy about 92 lines in a Torah Scroll (סֵפֶר תּוֹרָה, Sefer Torah).[1]

Jews read it on a Sabbath between the holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot, generally in September or October. Jews who read the Torah according to the triennial cycle of Torah reading nonetheless read the entire parashah of Haazinu every year.[2]

The parashah sets out the Song of Moses — an indictment of the Israelites’ sins, a prophecy of their punishment, and a promise of God’s ultimate redemption of them.

The bulk of the parashah, the song of Deuteronomy 32:1–43, appears in the Torah scroll in a distinctive two-column format, reflecting the poetic structure of the text, where in each line, an opening colon is matched by a second, parallel thought unit.

the beginning of Parashah Haazinu, Deuteronomy 32:1–4, as it appears in a Torah scroll


In traditional Sabbath Torah reading, the parashah is divided into seven readings, or עליות, aliyot. In the Masoretic Text of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), Parashah Haazinu has two "open portion" (פתוחה, petuchah) divisions (roughly equivalent to paragraphs, often abbreviated with the Hebrew letter פ (peh)). The first open portion (פתוחה, petuchah) spans nearly the entire parashah, except for the concluding maftir (מפטיר) reading. The second open portion (פתוחה, petuchah) is coincident with the maftir (מפטיר) reading. Parashah Haazinu has no "closed portion" (סתומה, setumah) (abbreviated with the Hebrew letter ס (samekh)) subdivisions.[3]

“My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew.” (Deuteronomy 32:2.)

First reading — Deuteronomy 32:1–6[edit]

In the first reading (עליה, aliyah), Moses called on heaven and earth to hear his words, and asked that his speech be like rain and dew for the grass.[4] Moses proclaimed that God was perfect in deed, just, faithful, true, and upright.[5] God’s children were unworthy, a crooked generation that played God false, ill requiting the Creator.[6] The first reading (עליה, aliyah) ends here.[7]

Second reading — Deuteronomy 32:7–12[edit]

In the second reading (עליה, aliyah), Moses exhorted the Israelites to remember that in ages past, God assigned the nations their homes and their due, but chose the Israelites as God’s own people.[8] God found the Israelites in the desert, watched over them, guarded them, like an eagle who rouses his nestlings, gliding down to his young, God spread God’s wings and took Israel, bearing Israel along on God’s pinions, God alone guided Israel.[9] The second reading (עליה, aliyah) ends here.[10]

Third reading — Deuteronomy 32:13–18[edit]

In the third reading (עליה, aliyah), God set the Israelites atop the highlands to feast on the yield of the earth and fed them honey, oil, curds, milk, lamb, wheat, and wine.[11] So Israel grew fat and kicked and forsook God, incensed God with alien things, and sacrificed to demons and no-gods.[12] The third reading (עליה, aliyah) ends here.[13]

Fourth reading — Deuteronomy 32:19–28[edit]

In the fourth reading (עליה, aliyah), God saw, was vexed, and hid God’s countenance from them, to see how they would fare.[14] For they were a treacherous breed, children with no loyalty, who incensed God with no-gods, vexed God with their idols; thus God would incense them with a no-folk and vex them with a nation of fools.[15] A fire flared in God’s wrath and burned down to the base of the hills.[16] God would sweep misfortunes on them, use God’s arrows on them — famine, plague, pestilence, and fanged beasts — and with the sword would deal death and terror to young and old alike.[17] God might have reduced them to nothing, made their memory cease among men, except for fear of the taunts of their enemies, who might misjudge and conclude that their own hand had prevailed and not God’s.[18] For Israel’s enemies were a folk void of sense, lacking in discernment.[19] The fourth reading (עליה, aliyah) ends here.[20]

Fifth reading — Deuteronomy 32:29–39[edit]

In the fifth reading (עליה, aliyah), God said that were they wise, they would think about this, and gain insight into their future, for they would recognize that one could not have routed a thousand unless God had sold them.[21] They were like Sodom and Gomorrah and their wine was the venom of asps.[22] God stored it away to be the basis for God’s vengeance and recompense when they should trip, for their day of disaster was near.[23] God would vindicate God’s people and take revenge for God’s servants, when their might was gone.[24] God would ask where the enemies’ gods were — they who ate the fat of their offerings and drank their libation wine — let them rise up to help![25] There was no god beside God, who dealt death and gave life, wounded and healed.[26] The fifth reading (עליה, aliyah) ends here.[27]

Sixth reading — Deuteronomy 32:40–43[edit]

In the sixth reading (עליה, aliyah), God swore that when God would whet God’s flashing blade, and lay hand on judgment, God would wreak vengeance on God’s foes.[28] God would make God’s arrows drunk with blood, as God’s sword devoured flesh, blood of the slain and the captive from the long-haired enemy chiefs.[29] God would avenge the blood of God’s servants, wreak vengeance on God’s foes, and cleanse the land of God’s people.[30] The sixth reading (עליה, aliyah) ends here.[31]

view of the Dead Sea from Mount Nebo

Seventh reading — Deuteronomy 32:44–52[edit]

In the seventh reading (עליה, aliyah), Moses came, together with Joshua, and recited all this poem to the people.[32] And when Moses finished reciting, he told them to take his warnings to heart and enjoin them upon their children, for it was not a trifling thing but their very life at stake.[33] The first open portion (פתוחה, petuchah) ends here.[34]

In the maftir (מפטיר) reading of Deuteronomy 32:48–52 that concludes the parashah,[35] God told Moses to ascend Mount Nebo and view the land of Canaan, for he was to die on the mountain, as his brother Aaron had died on Mount Hor, for they both broke faith with God when they struck the rock to produce water in the wilderness of Zin, failing to uphold God’s sanctity among the Israelite people.[36] The seventh reading (עליה, aliyah), the second open portion (פתוחה, petuchah), and the parashah end here.[37]

In inner-Biblical interpretation[edit]

The parashah has parallels or is discussed in these Biblical sources:[38]

Deuteronomy chapter 32[edit]

Moses calls heaven and earth to serve as witnesses against Israel in Deuteronomy 4:26, 30:19, 31:28, and 32:1. Similarly, Psalm 50:4–5 reports that God “summoned the heavens above, and the earth, for the trial of His people,” saying “Bring in My devotees, who made a covenant with Me over sacrifice!” Psalm 50:6 continues: “Then the heavens proclaimed His righteousness, for He is a God who judges.” And in Isaiah 1:2, the prophet similarly begins his vision, "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord has spoken."

In Deuteronomy 32:4, 32:15, 32:18, and 32:30–31, Moses calls God a "Rock." The Psalmist does so as well in Psalm 19:15 and Psalm 95:1. Psalm 18:3 analogizes God's role as a Rock to a "fortress" and a "high tower."

Deuteronomy compares God's relationship with Israel to that of a parent and child in Deuteronomy 1:31, 8:5, and 32:5. For similar comparisons, see Exodus 4:22–23, Isaiah 1:2, and Hosea 11:1.

In Deuteronomy 32:10, God finds Israel in the wilderness, much as in Hosea 9:10, God says, "I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the first-ripe in the fig tree at her first season."

Psalm 91 interprets the role of God as an eagle expressed in Deuteronomy 32:11. Psalm 91:4 explains, “He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings shall you take refuge,” and Psalm 91:5 explains, “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day.”

In Samaritan interpretation[edit]

Samaritan High Priest and Old Pentateuch, 1905

As Samaritans accept only the Torah as prophetic and reject the rest of the Tanakh, they base their belief in the resurrection of the dead (ḥayyei ha-metim) entirely on Parashah Haazinu. In the Samaritan Torah, the phrase "I kill and I make alive" in Deuteronomy 32:39 is pronounced Ani amit wa'aḥayei meaning "I kill and I return life", which is interpreted as "I will give life to the dead" or aḥayei et ha-met.[39]

Deuteronomy 32:43, "and He will expiate His land and His people", or in Samaritan Hebrew wa'kiper admato amo, has led Samaritans to interpret the phrase amit wa'aḥayei in Deuteronomy 32:39 to mean that only the righteous of the people of Israel will experience the resurrection and have a place in the World To Come (Olam Haba). Samaritans consider themselves and Jews collectively to be the people of Israel, so they believe that Jews will experience resurrection of the dead just as Samaritans will. Samaritans see this as motivation for non-Samaritans and non-Jews (gentiles) to convert and join the people of Israel if they want to have a place in the Wold To Come.[citation needed]

In Jewish interpretation[edit]

In classical rabbinic interpretation[edit]

The parashah is discussed in these rabbinic sources from the era of the Mishnah and the Talmud:

The Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael counted 10 songs in the Hebrew Bible: (1) the one that the Israelites recited at the first Passover in Egypt, as Isaiah 30:29 says, “You shall have a song as in the night when a feast is hallowed”; (2) the Song of the sea in Exodus 15; (3) the one that the Israelites sang at the well in the wilderness, as Numbers 21:17 reports, “Then sang Israel this song: ‘Spring up, O well’”; (4) the one that Moses spoke in his last days, as Deuteronomy 31:30 reports, “Moses spoke in the ears of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song”; (5) the one that Joshua recited, as Joshua 10:12 reports, “Then spoke Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites”; (6) the one that Deborah and Barak sang, as Judges 5:1 reports, “Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam”; (7) the one that David spoke, as 2 Samuel 22:1 reports, “David spoke to the Lord the words of this song in the day that the Lord delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul”; (8) the one that Solomon recited, as Psalm 30:1 reports, “a song at the Dedication of the House of David”; (9) the one that Jehoshaphat recited, as 2 Chronicles 20:21 reports: “when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed them that should sing to the Lord, and praise in the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and say, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for His mercy endures for ever’”; and (10) the song that will be sung in the time to come, as Isaiah 42:10 says, “Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise from the end of the earth,” and Psalm 149:1 says, “Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise in the assembly of the saints.”[40]

The Gemara instructs that when writing a Torah scroll, a scribe needs to write the song of Deuteronomy 32:1–43 in a special two-column form, with extra spaces. (See the image at the top of this article.) If a scribe writes the song as plain text, then the scroll is invalid.[41]

Rabbi Samuel ben Nahman asked why Moses called upon both the heavens and the earth in Deuteronomy 32:1. Rabbi Samuel compared Moses to a general who held office in two provinces and was about to hold a feast. He needed to invite people from both provinces, so that neither would fell offended for having been overlooked. Moses was born on earth, but became great in heaven.[42]

The Sifre taught that Israel would come before God and acknowledge that heaven and earth, the witnesses that God designated in Deuteronomy 32:1, were present to testify against her, but God would say that God would remove them, as Isaiah 65:17 reports that God would "create a new heaven and a new earth." Israel would say to God that her bad name endured, but God would say that God would remove her bad name as well, as Isaiah 62:2 reports that Israel "shall be called by a new name." Israel would ask God whether God had not prohibited her reconciliation with God when Jeremiah 3:1 says, "If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return to her again?" But God would reply in the words of Hosea 11:9, "I am God, and not man." (And thus God would forgive Israel and restore her original relationship with God.)[43]

Rav Judah and Rava inferred from Deuteronomy 32:2 the great value of rain. Rava also inferred from the comparison in Deuteronomy 32:2 of Torah to both rain and dew that Torah can affect a worthy scholar as beneficially as dew, and an unworthy one like a crushing rainstorm.[44]

Rabbi Abbahu cited Deuteronomy 32:3 to support the proposition of Mishnah Berakhot 7:1 that three who have eaten together publicly should say the Grace after Meals (ברכת המזון, Birkat Hamazon) together as well. In Deuteronomy 32:3, Moses says, “When I (who am one) proclaim the name of the Lord, you (in the plural, who are thus at least two more) ascribe greatness to our God.” Thus by using the plural to for “you,” Moses implies that at least three are present, and should ascribe greatness to God.[45]

Rabbi Jose found support in the words “ascribe greatness to our God” in Deuteronomy 32:3 for the proposition that when standing in the house of assembly saying, “Blessed is the Lord who is to be blessed,” people are to respond, “Blessed is the Lord who is to be blessed forever and ever.” Rabbi Jose also found support in those words for the proposition that Grace after Meals is said only when three are present; that one must say “Amen” after the one who says the blessing; that one must say, “Blessed is the Name of the Glory of His Kingdom forever and ever”; and that when people say, “May His great name be blessed,” one must answer, “Forever and ever and ever.”[46]

Sea Eagle's Nest (1907 painting by Bruno Liljefors)

Rabbi Hanina bar Papa taught that to enjoy this world without reciting a blessing is tantamount to robbing God, as Proverbs 28:24 says, “Whoever robs his father or his mother and says, ‘It is no transgression,’ is the companion of a destroyer,” and Deuteronomy 32:6 says of God, “Is not He your father Who has gotten you?”[47]

The Sifre expanded on the metaphor of God as an eagle in Deuteronomy 32:11, teaching that just as an eagle enters her nest only after shaking her chicks with her wings, fluttering from tree to tree to wake them up, so that they will have the strength to receive her, so when God revealed God’s self to give the Torah to Israel, God did not appear from just a single direction, but from all four directions, as Deuteronomy 33:2 says, “The Lord came from Sinai, and rose from Seir to them,” and Habakkuk 3:3 says, “God comes from the south.”[48]

The Gemara read the word “Rock” in Deuteronomy 32:18 to refer to God, and the Gemara employed that interpretation with others to support Abba Benjamin’s assertion that when two people enter a synagogue to pray, and one of them finishes first and leaves without waiting for the other, God disregards the prayer of the one who left.[49]

Rabbi Judah ben Simon expounded on God’s words in Deuteronomy 32:20, “I will hide My face from them.” Rabbi Judah ben Simon compared Israel to a king's son who went into the marketplace and struck people but was not struck in return (because of his being the king’s son). He insulted but was not insulted. He went up to his father arrogantly. But the father asked the son whether he thought that he was respected on his own account, when the son was respected only on account of the respect that was due to the father. So the father renounced the son, and as a result, no one took any notice of him. So when Israel went out of Egypt, the fear of them fell upon all the nations, as Exodus 15:14–16 reported, “The peoples have heard, they tremble; pangs have taken hold on the inhabitants of Philistia. Then were the chiefs of Edom frightened; the mighty men of Moab, trembling takes hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan are melted away. Terror and dread falls upon them.” But when Israel transgressed and sinned, God asked Israel whether it thought that it was respected on its own account, when it was respected only on account of the respect that was due to God. So God turned away from them a little, and the Amalekites came and attacked Israel, as Exodus 17:8 reports, “Then Amalek came, and fought with Israel in Rephidim,” and then the Canaanites came and fought with Israel, as Numbers 21:1 reports, “And the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who dwelt in the South, heard tell that Israel came by the way of Atharim; and he fought against Israel.” God told the Israelites that they had no genuine faith, as Deuteronomy 32:20 says, “they are a very disobedient generation, children in whom is no faith.” God concluded that the Israelites were rebellious, but to destroy them was impossible, to take them back to Egypt was impossible, and God could not change them for another people. So God concluded to chastise and try them with suffering.[50]

Rabbi Jacob taught in Rabbi Aha’s name (or others say in the Rabbi Abin’s name) that no hour is as grievous as that in which God hides God’s face (as foretold in Deuteronomy 31:17–18 and 32:20). Rabbi Jacob taught that since that hour, he had hoped for God, for God said in Deuteronomy 31:21, “For it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed.”[51]

Coin of Shapur II, Sasanian king 309–379

Rav Bardela bar Tabyumi taught in Rav’s name that to whomever “hiding of the face”[52] does not apply is not one of the Children of Israel, and to whomever “they shall be devoured”[53] does not apply is also not one of them. The Rabbis confronted Rava, saying “hiding of the face” and “they shall be devoured” did not apply to Rava. Rava asked the Rabbis whether they knew how much he was forced to send secretly to the Court of King Shapur of Persia. Even so, the Rabbis directed their eyes upon Rava in suspicion. Meanwhile, the Court of King Shapur sent men who seized Rava’s property. Rava then said that this bore out what Rabban Simeon ben Gamliel taught, that wherever the Rabbis direct their eyes in suspicion, either death or poverty follows. Interpreting “I will hide My face,”[54] Rava taught that God said although God would hide God’s face from them, God would nonetheless speak to them in a dream. Rav Joseph taught that God’s hand is nonetheless stretched over us to protect us, as Isaiah 51:16 says, “And I have covered you in the shadow of My hand.” Rabbi Joshua ben Hanania was once at the Roman emperor Hadrian’s court, when an unbeliever gestured to Rabbi Joshua in sign language that the Jewish people was a people from whom their God had turned His face. Rabbi Joshua ben Hanania gestured in reply that God’s hand was stretched over the Jewish people. Emperor Hadrian asked Rabbi Joshua what unbeliever had said. Rabbi Joshua told the emperor what unbeliever had said and what Rabbi Joshua had replied. They then asked the unbeliever what he had said, and he told them. And then they asked what Rabbi Joshua had replied, and the unbeliever did not know. They decreed that a man who does not understand what he is being shown by gesture should hold converse in signs before the emperor, and they led him forth and executed him for his disrespect to the emperor.[55]

The Gemara read the word רֶשֶׁף, reshef (“fiery bolt”) in Deuteronomy 32:24 to refer to demons, and the Gemara employed that interpretation with others to support Rabbi Isaac’s assertion that reciting the Shema in bed keeps demons away. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish reasoned from Deuteronomy 32:24 that Torah study keeps away painful sufferings. For Job 5:7 says, “And the sons of רֶשֶׁף, reshef, fly upward (עוּף, uf).” He argued that the word עוּף, uf, refers only to the Torah, as Proverbs 23:5 says, “Will you close (הֲתָעִיף, hataif) your eyes to it (the Torah)? It is gone.” And רֶשֶׁף, reshef, refers only to painful sufferings, as Deuteronomy 32:24 says, “The wasting of hunger, and the devouring of the fiery bolt (רֶשֶׁף, reshef). Rabbi Johanan said to Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish that even school children know that the Torah protects against painful disease. For Exodus 15:26 says, “And He said: ‘If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord your God, and will do that which is right in His eyes, and will give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon you that I have put upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord Who heals you.” Rather one should say that God visits those who have the opportunity to study the Torah and do not do so with ugly and painful sufferings which stir them up. For Psalm 39:3 says, “I was dumb with silence, I kept silence from the good thing, and my pain was stirred up.” “The good thing” refers only to the Torah, as Proverbs 4:2 says, “For I give you good doctrine; forsake not My teaching.”[56]

Rav Hisda taught that one walking in a dirty alleyway should not recite the Shema, and one reciting the Shema who comes upon a dirty alleyway should stop reciting. Of one who would not stop reciting, Rav Adda bar Ahavah quoted Numbers 15:31 to say: “he has despised the word of the Lord.” And of one who does stop reciting, Rabbi Abbahu taught that Deuteronomy 32:47 says: “through this word you shall prolong your days.”[57]

Rabbi Johanan counted ten instances in which Scripture refers to the death of Moses (including one in the parashah), teaching that God did not finally seal the harsh decree until God declared it to Moses. Rabbi Johanan cited these ten references to the death of Moses: (1) Deuteronomy 4:22: “But I must die in this land; I shall not cross the Jordan”; (2) Deuteronomy 31:14: “The Lord said to Moses: ‘Behold, your days approach that you must die’”; (3) Deuteronomy 31:27: “[E]ven now, while I am still alive in your midst, you have been defiant toward the Lord; and how much more after my death”; (4) Deuteronomy 31:29: “For I know that after my death, you will act wickedly and turn away from the path that I enjoined upon you”; (5) Deuteronomy 32:50: “And die in the mount that you are about to ascend, and shall be gathered to your kin, as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his kin”; (6) Deuteronomy 33:1: “This is the blessing with which Moses, the man of God, bade the Israelites farewell before his death”; (7) Deuteronomy 34:5: “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, at the command of the Lord”; (8) Deuteronomy 34:7: “Moses was 120 years old when he died”; (9) Joshua 1:1: “Now it came to pass after the death of Moses”; and (10) Joshua 1:2: “Moses My servant is dead.” Rabbi Johanan taught that ten times it was decreed that Moses should not enter the Land of Israel, but the harsh decree was not finally sealed until God revealed it to him and declared (as reported in Deuteronomy 3:27): “It is My decree that you should not pass over.”[58]

David and Bathsheba (mid-17th-century painting by Bernardino Mei)

The Sifre taught that God told Moses in Deuteronomy 32:50 that Moses would die “as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people,” because when Moses saw the merciful manner of Aaron’s death, as reported in Numbers 20:23–28, Moses concluded that he would want to die the same way. The Sifre taught that God told Aaron to go in a cave, to climb onto a bier, to spread his hands, to spread his legs, to close his mouth, and to close his eyes, and then Aaron died. And at that moment, Moses concluded that one would be happy to die that way.[59]

The Gemara implied that the sin of Moses in striking the rock at Meribah compared favorably to the sin of David. The Gemara reported that Moses and David were two good leaders of Israel. Moses begged God that his sin be recorded, as it is in Numbers 20:12, 20:23–24, and 27:13–14, and Deuteronomy 32:51. David, however, begged that his sin be blotted out, as Psalm 32:1 says, “Happy is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is pardoned.” The Gemara compared the cases of Moses and David to the cases of two women whom the court sentenced to be lashed. One had committed an indecent act, while the other had eaten unripe figs of the seventh year in violation of Leviticus 25:6. The woman who had eaten unripe figs begged the court to make known for what offense she was being flogged, lest people say that she was being punished for the same sin as the other woman. The court thus made known her sin, and the Torah repeatedly records the sin of Moses.[60]

In medieval rabbinic interpretation[edit]

The parashah is discussed in these medieval rabbinic sources:

Saadiah Gaon interpreted heaven and earth in Deuteronomy 32:1 to mean the angels and the people of the earth.[61]

Rashi explained that Moses called upon heaven and earth to serve as witnesses in Deuteronomy 32:1 in case Israel denied accepting the covenant, because Moses knew that he was mortal and would soon die, but heaven and earth will endure forever.[62] Furthermore, said Rashi, if Israel acted meritoriously, then the witnesses would be able to reward them, as the earth would yield its produce and the heavens would give its dew. (Zechariah 8:12.) And if Israel acted sinfully, then the hand of the witnesses would be the first to inflict punishment (carrying out the injunction of Deuteronomy 17:7), as God would close off heaven’s rain, and the soil would not yield its produce. (Deuteronomy 11:17.)[63]

Rashi interpreted Deuteronomy 32:2 to refer to Torah, which, like rain, provides life to the world. Rashi interpreted the request of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:2 for his speech to rain down “as the dew,” “as the rain,” to mean that it should come in small droplets. Rashi interpreted that Moses wanted to teach the children of Israel slowly, the knowledge "raining" down on the people in small portions, for if they were to be subject to all knowledge coming down at once, they would be overwhelmed and thus wiped out.[64]

Maimonides taught that Scripture employs the idea of God’s hiding God’s face (as in Deuteronomy 32:20) to designate the manifestation of a certain work of God. Thus, Moses the prophet foretold misfortune by saying (in God’s words in Deuteronomy 31:17), “And I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured.” For, Maimonides interpreted, when people are deprived of Divine protection, they are exposed to all dangers, and become the victim of circumstance, their fortune dependent on chance — a terrible threat.[65] Further, Maimonides taught that the hiding of God’s face results from human choice. When people do not meditate on God, they are separated from God, and they are then exposed to any evil that might befall them. For, Maimonides taught, the intellectual link with God secures the presence of Providence and protection from evil accidents. Maimonides argued that this principle applies equally to an individual person and a whole community.[66]

the deluge (1869 painting by Wassilij Petrovich Wereschtschagin)

In modern interpretation[edit]

The parashah is discussed in these modern sources:

Harold Fisch described the witness function of the song as "a kind of time bomb; it awaits its hour and then springs forward into harsh remembrance."[67]

A Midrash interpreted the report of Deuteronomy 32:8 that God "fixed the boundaries of peoples in relation to Israel's number" (לְמִסְפַּר בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, l'mispar b'nei Yisrael) to teach that before the days of Abraham, God dealt harshly with the world: The sins of Noah's generation resulted in the flood; the generation that built the Tower of Babel was dispersed throughout the globe, prompting the proliferation of languages; the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were answered with fire and brimstone. According to the Midrash, when Abraham came into the world, God ceased the cataclysmic punishments and set the punishments of other peoples in relationship to Israel's presence in the world. This Midrash conveys that the Israelites' presence somehow lessened God's anger, bringing greater stability to the world. The Midrash teaches that Jews, then, have a unique ability and responsibility to bring peace and stability to the world.[68]

Nahama Leibowitz noted that Deuteronomy 32:27 contains a “very daring anthropomorphism indeed, attributing to God the sentiment of fear.”[69]

In secular analysis[edit]

Some secular scholars who follow the Documentary Hypothesis find evidence of three separate sources in the parashah. Thus, some scholars consider the final counsel of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:45–47 to have been composed by the first Deuteronomistic historian (sometimes abbreviated Dtr 1) who wrote in the time of King Josiah of Judah, circa 622 BCE.[70] Some scholars attribute the bulk of the parashah, Deuteronomy 32:1–44 to an insertion by the second Deuteronomistic historian (sometimes abbreviated Dtr 2) who wrote in the Babylonian captivity after 587 BCE.[71] And then these scholars attribute the conclusion of the parashah, Deuteronomy 32:48–52 to a later Redactor (sometimes abbreviated R) who folded the Deuteronomic report into the context established at the end of the book of Numbers.[72] For a color-coded display of verses according to this hypothesis, see the display of Deuteronomy according to the Documentary Hypothesis at Wikiversity.

Diagram of the Documentary Hypothesis

In the Masoretic Text and the Samaritan Pentateuch, Deuteronomy 32:8 reports how God set the borders of the peoples according to the number of “the children of Israel.” In a Qumran scroll (4QDeutj) and the Septuagint, however, it is the number of “the children of God,” whom Martin Abegg Jr., Peter Flint, and Eugene Ulrich suggested may mean the divine beings who would serve as protectors for the various nations.[73] Professor Robert Alter argued that this phrase appears to reflect a very early stage in the evolution of biblical monotheism. Alter suggested that it caused later transmitters of the text theological discomfort and probably provoked these transmitters deliberately to change it in the interests of piety. In Alter’s interpretation of the older world-picture, a celestial entourage of subordinate divine beings or lesser deities surrounded the supreme God. In Alter’s reading, the original Deuteronomy 32:8 assumed that God, in allotting portions of the earth to the various peoples, also allowed each people its own lesser deity.[74]

Similarly, in the Masoretic Text and the Samaritan Pentateuch, Deuteronomy 32:43 says, “Sing aloud, O you nations, of His people; for He avenges the blood of His servants, and renders vengeance to His adversaries, and makes expiation for the land of His people.” But in another Qumran scroll (4QDeutq, supported by the Septuagint), Deuteronomy 32:43 says, “Rejoice, O heavens, together with Him; and bow down to Him all you gods, for He will avenge the blood of His sons, and will render vengeance to His enemies, and will recompense those who hate Him, and will atone for the land of His people.”[75] Jeffrey Tigay suggested that scribes responsible for transmitting the text may have been concerned that readers not envision supernatural beings with power that would encourage the readers to worship these beings along with God.[76]


Maimonides cites the parashah for one negative commandment:[77]

  • Not to drink wine of libation to idolatry[78]

According to Sefer ha-Chinuch, however, there are no commandments in the parashah.[79]

And according to others, the parashah contains a commandment to listen, hear, and learn one's ancestral history, as Deuteronomy 32:7–9 instructs one to "ask your father and he will tell you."

In the liturgy[edit]

At the formal beginning of the K’riat Sh’ma prayer service, the leader recites the Barchu, “Praise Adonai, the Exalted One.” The Sifre to Deuteronomy 306 connects this practice to Deuteronomy 32:3, where Moses says, “I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God.”[80]

Moses’ characterization of God as “the Rock” in Deuteronomy 32:4 is reflected in Psalm 95:1, which is in turn the first of the six Psalms recited at the beginning of the Kabbalat Shabbat prayer service, as well as in Psalm 92:16, which is recited later in the Kabbalat Shabbat service after the Lekhah Dodi liturgical poem.[81]

Many Jews recite the words, “as an eagle that stirs up her nest, hovers over her young,” from Deuteronomy 32:11 as part of the declaration of intent before donning the tallit.[82]

David between Wisdom and Prophecy (illustration from the 10th century Paris Psalter)


The haftarah for the parashah is the song of David, 2 Samuel 22:1–51. Both the parashah and the haftarah set out the song of a great leader. Both the parashah (in Deuteronomy 32:4 and 18) and the haftarah (in 2 Samuel 22:1 and 2) refer to God as a Rock.


  1. ^ "Devarim Torah Stats". Akhlah Inc. Retrieved July 6, 2013. 
  2. ^ See, e.g., "A Complete Triennial Cycle for Reading the Torah". The Jewish Theological Seminary. Retrieved August 26, 2013. 
  3. ^ See, e.g., Menachem Davis. The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash: Devarim / Deuteronomy, pages 204–18. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2009. ISBN 1-4226-0210-9.
  4. ^ Deuteronomy 32:1–2.
  5. ^ Deuteronomy 32:3–4.
  6. ^ Deuteronomy 32:5–6.
  7. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash, page 206.
  8. ^ Deuteronomy 32:7–9.
  9. ^ Deuteronomy 32:10–12.
  10. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash, pages 207–08.
  11. ^ Deuteronomy 32:13–14.
  12. ^ Deuteronomy 32:15–18.
  13. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash, page 209.
  14. ^ Deuteronomy 32:19–20.
  15. ^ Deuteronomy 32:20–21.
  16. ^ Deuteronomy 32:22.
  17. ^ Deuteronomy 32:23–25.
  18. ^ Deuteronomy 32:26–27.
  19. ^ Deuteronomy 32:28.
  20. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash, page 212.
  21. ^ Deuteronomy 32:29–31.
  22. ^ Deuteronomy 32:32–33.
  23. ^ Deuteronomy 32:34–35.
  24. ^ Deuteronomy 32:36.
  25. ^ Deuteronomy 32:37–38.
  26. ^ Deuteronomy 32:39.
  27. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash, page 215.
  28. ^ Deuteronomy 32:40–41.
  29. ^ Deuteronomy 32:42.
  30. ^ Deuteronomy 32:43.
  31. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash, pages 215–16.
  32. ^ Deuteronomy 32:44.
  33. ^ Deuteronomy 32:45–47.
  34. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash, page 217.
  35. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash, pages 217–18.
  36. ^ Deuteronomy 32:48–52.
  37. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash, page 218.
  38. ^ For more on inner-Biblical interpretation, see, e.g., Benjamin D. Sommer. “Inner-biblical Interpretation.” In The Jewish Study Bible. Edited by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, pages 1829–35. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-19-529751-2.
  39. ^ Yesaahq ben 'Aamraam. Samaritan Exegesis: A Compilation Of Writings From The Samaritans. 2013. ISBN 1482770814.
  40. ^ Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael Shirata 1:5.
  41. ^ Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 103b.
  42. ^ Deuteronomy Rabbah 10:4.
  43. ^ Sifre to Deuteronomy 306:2–3.
  44. ^ Babylonian Talmud Taanit 7a.
  45. ^ Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 45a.
  46. ^ Sifre to Deuteronomy 306:30.
  47. ^ Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 35b.
  48. ^ Sifre to Deuteronomy 314.
  49. ^ Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 5b.
  50. ^ Ruth Rabbah Prologue 4. 6th–7th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Ruth. Translated by L. Rabinowitz, volume 8, pages 7–8. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
  51. ^ Genesis Rabbah 17:3, 42:3. Leviticus Rabbah 11:7. Esther Rabbah Prologue 11. Ruth Rabbah Prologue 7. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Ruth. Translated by L. Rabinowitz, volume 8, pages 9, 11.
  52. ^ Deuteronomy 31:17–18 and 32:20.
  53. ^ Deuteronomy 31:17.
  54. ^ Deuteronomy 31:17–18 and 32:20.
  55. ^ Babylonian Talmud Chagigah 5a–b
  56. ^ Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 5a. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Elucidated by Gedaliah Zlotowitz; edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr and Chaim Malinowitz, volume 1, page 5a2.
  57. ^ Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 24b.
  58. ^ Deuteronomy Rabbah 11:10.
  59. ^ Sifre to Deuteronomy 339:3.
  60. ^ Babylonian Talmud Yoma 86b.
  61. ^ Ibn Ezra on 32:1.
  62. ^ Rashi on 32:1; see also Ibn Ezra and Nachmanides on 32:1.
  63. ^ Rashi on 32:1.
  64. ^ Rashi on 32:2.
  65. ^ Maimonides. The Guide for the Perplexed, part 1, chapter 23. Cairo, Egypt, 1190. Reprinted in, e.g., Moses Maimonides. The Guide for the Perplexed. Translated by Michael Friedländer, page 33. New York: Dover Publications, 1956. ISBN 0-486-20351-4.
  66. ^ Maimonides. The Guide for the Perplexed, part 3, chapter 51. Reprinted in, e.g., Moses Maimonides. The Guide for the Perplexed. Translated by Michael Friedländer, page 389.
  67. ^ Harold Fisch. Poetry with a Purpose: Biblical Poetics and Interpretation, page 51. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-253-34557-X.
  68. ^ myjewishlearing.com
  69. ^ Nehama Leibowitz. Studies in Devarim: Deuteronomy, page 328. Jerusalem: The World Zionist Organization, 1980.
  70. ^ See, e.g., Richard Elliott Friedman. The Bible with Sources Revealed, pages 5, 364. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003. ISBN 0-06-053069-3.
  71. ^ See, e.g., Richard Elliott Friedman. The Bible with Sources Revealed, pages 5, 360–64, and note on page 360.
  72. ^ See, e.g., Richard Elliott Friedman. The Bible with Sources Revealed, pages 5, 364, and note on page 364.
  73. ^ Martin Abegg Jr., Peter Flint, and Eugene Ulrich. The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English, page 191 and note 163. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999. ISBN 0-06-060063-2.
  74. ^ Robert Alter. The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary, pages 1039–40 and note 8. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2004. ISBN 0-393-01955-1.
  75. ^ Martin Abegg Jr., Peter Flint, and Eugene Ulrich. The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, page 192–93 and notes 170–73.
  76. ^ Jeffrey H. Tigay. The JPS Torah Commentary: Deuteronomy: The Traditional Hebrew Text with the New JPS Translation, 514. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996. ISBN 0-8276-0330-4. And see generally pages 314, 513–18.
  77. ^ Maimonides. Mishneh Torah, Negative Commandment 194. Cairo, Egypt, 1170–1180. Reprinted in Maimonides. The Commandments: Sefer Ha-Mitzvoth of Maimonides. Translated by Charles B. Chavel, volume 2, pages 189–91. London: Soncino Press, 1967. ISBN 0-900689-71-4.
  78. ^ Deuteronomy 32:38.
  79. ^ Sefer HaHinnuch: The Book of [Mitzvah] Education. Translated by Charles Wengrov, volume 5, page 443. Jerusalem: Feldheim Pub., 1988. ISBN 0-87306-497-6.
  80. ^ Reuven Hammer. Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, page 28. New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, 2003. ISBN 0-916219-20-8.
  81. ^ Reuven Hammer. Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, pages 15, 23.
  82. ^ Menachem Davis. The Schottenstein Edition Siddur for Weekdays with an Interlinear Translation, page 5. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2002. ISBN 1-57819-686-8.

Further reading[edit]

The parashah has parallels or is discussed in these sources:


Early nonrabbinic[edit]


Classical rabbinic[edit]

  • Tosefta Shabbat 8:24–25; Sotah 4:8. Land of Israel, circa 300 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew, with a New Introduction. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 1:385, 848. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Pub., 2002. ISBN 1-56563-642-2.
  • Sifre to Deuteronomy 306:1–341:1. Land of Israel, circa 250–350 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Sifre to Deuteronomy: An Analytical Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, volume 2, pages 295–397. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987. ISBN 1-55540-145-7.
  • Jerusalem Talmud: Berakhot 72b, 84b; Peah 5a, 7b, 48b; Kilayim 82a; Sheviit 5b; Maaser Sheni 49b; Rosh Hashanah 22a; Megillah 13b, 34b; Sanhedrin 9b, 36b. Land of Israel, circa 400 CE. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Yerushalmi. Edited by Chaim Malinowitz, Yisroel Simcha Schorr, and Mordechai Marcus, volumes 2–3, 5–6a, 10, 24, 26. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2006–2012.
  • Genesis Rabbah 1:14; 5:5; 12:1; 13:14; 15:7; 17:3; 22:2; 44:21; 53:15; 65:15; 68:12; 96:5. Land of Israel, 5th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
  • Leviticus Rabbah 2:10; 4:1; 18:5; 22:8; 23:5, 12. Land of Israel, 5th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Leviticus. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.


  • Deuteronomy Rabbah 1:5; 3:5; 5:4; 8:2; 10:1–4; 11:5, 10. Land of Israel, 9th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Deuteronomy. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
  • Exodus Rabbah 1:12; 3:8; 5:12, 14; 13:2; 15:12, 16; 21:3; 23:2, 8; 24:1; 29:7; 30:1, 11, 21; 32:7; 42:1; 51:7. 10th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Exodus. Translated by S. M. Lehrman. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
  • Rashi. Commentary. Deuteronomy 32. Troyes, France, late 11th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Rashi. The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated. Translated and annotated by Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg, volume 5, pages 329–69. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1997. ISBN 0-89906-030-7.
  • Judah Halevi. Kuzari. 2:16; 3:11; 4:3. Toledo, Spain, 1130–1140. Reprinted in, e.g., Jehuda Halevi. Kuzari: An Argument for the Faith of Israel. Introduction by Henry Slonimsky, pages 92, 149, 201. New York: Schocken, 1964. ISBN 0-8052-0075-4.
  • Numbers Rabbah 2:6; 8:4; 9:1, 7, 11, 14, 49; 10:2; 12:11; 13:14; 14:12; 16:5, 24; 17:5; 20:1, 19, 21. 12th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Numbers. Translated by Judah J. Slotki. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
  • Esther Rabbah prologue 11; 1:6; 5:1; 7:13.
  • Song of Songs Rabbah 1:11; 8:7.
  • Lamentations Rabbah: prologue 24, 25, 34; 1:33, 55; 2:4.
  • Ecclesiastes Rabbah 2:15; 3:13, 17, 19; 9:5
  • Letter from Abraham the parnas. Kiev, Middle Ages. Reprinted in Mark R. Cohen. The Voice of the Poor in the Middle Ages: An Anthology of Documents from the Cairo Geniza, page 64. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-691-09262-1.
  • Zohar 1:6a, 22b, 26a, 53a, 87b, 96b, 138b, 139b, 143b, 160a, 161b, 163a, 164a, 177a, 189b, 192a; 2:5b, 26b, 64a, 64b, 80b, 83b, 86a, 95b, 96a, 108b, 125a, 144a, 155b, 157a, 162b, 210a; 3:60b, 78b, 126a, 210b, 263a, 268a, 286a–299b. Spain, late 13th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., The Zohar. Translated by Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon. 5 volumes. London: Soncino Press, 1934.



External links[edit]