The Wonders of G-d Towards All Men
In our parsha, the poem Haazinu recounts throughout its verses how the Holy One, blessed be He, bestows His beneficial influence upon the Children of Israel, in contrast to the other nations of the world. From the beginning we recite, “Ascribe greatness to our G-d” (Deuteronomy 32:3) and further on, “He would make him ride on the heights of the land … with honey from a stone, and oil from a flinty rock” (v.13). We also read, “For the L-RD’s portion is His people; Jacob is the measure of His inheritance” (v.9). Concerning this subject, Moses exhorts Israel as follows: “Remember the days of yore, understand the years of generation after generation” (v.7) in order to tell us that everything stems from the Holy One, blessed by He, Who made everything, and that all the wonders that we witness are due to Him.
Yet because of our many sins, today there are numerous people who look at all of creation without attributing any importance to G-d. They do so because they consider it as natural, as self-evident. In fact they believe that everything is natural and ordinary, yet they don’t ask themselves the same questions that Abraham did, who realized that all comes from G-d and that He is the Master of the world (Bereshith Rabba 39:1). Concerning them it is said, “We lead a man by the path that he wants to take” (Makot 10b), and if he wants to invent lies to explain the world, he is not prevented from doing so. However if a man desires to arrive at the truth, he is helped, and not only does he receive his reward, but he also merits sanctifying G-d’s Name. This is why it is written, “This emanated from the L-RD; it is wondrous in our eyes” (Psalms 118:23), which means that all wonders stem from G-d because He also created nature.
Yet those who don’t look for truth simply say that all is natural and everything is self-evident. To these, G-d responds measure for measure. Actually, they claim that everything is natural, but we know that hateva (nature) has the same numerical value as the name Elokim. Now this Name represents strict justice (Zohar I:64), which is why such people arouse severity, both in this world and the World to Come. Consequently, nature avenges itself on the wicked, as when all of a sudden a volcano erupts and kills multitudes of people, or when an earthquake causes destruction, or when people die in tempests or violent storms. This is because nature is Elokim, strict justice, and because justice attacks the wicked in order to teach us that everything stems from G-d.
Now when severity increases in the world, it doesn’t distinguish between good and bad, and even the good are punished in this world, even if it means that they will receive their reward in the World to Come. Alternatively, it can also happen that G-d performs miracles and saves them from strict justice, which for them turns into mercy. They are therefore saved as a reward for their belief that G-d also created nature. Actually, all men fall under mercy’s influence, and they can change justice into mercy by the power of their faith in the Creator.
This summer I was in the mountains, and I saw an extraordinary landscape of high peaks. I was taken with trembling before the glory of G-d’s majesty and all that He created in the world by strict justice in order to punish those who deny His existence, not recognizing the truth but rather inventing lies in their heart. I then clearly felt the words of King David: “How [mah] abundant are Your works, O L-RD” (Palms 104:24). The word mah has a numerical value of 45, which means that on one hand King David sees nature as having been created by justice, and on the other hand he says that because he sensed the truth, justice transformed itself into mercy. This allows a person to attach himself even more deeply to the Holy One, blessed be He, and this is what is expressed in the poem Haazinu: “Ascribe greatness to our G-d [Elokeinu],” for the Name Elokim represents strict justice. However if we recognize the truth, then “the L-RD’s portion is His people.” The Tetragrammaton (here translated as “the L-RD”) represents mercy, which means that justice transforms itself into mercy – all this when we ascribe glory (even that of nature) exclusively to the Holy One, blessed be He.
While I was standing like this in front of the great mountains and imposing landscape, contemplating on all of Creation that G-d made and gathering faith in Him in my heart, someone approached me and told me that he had heard in the name of the Admor of Belz that the Holy One, blessed be He, brings the pure air of Jerusalem to Europe and the entire world. I then asked myself why in fact the Holy One, blessed be He, had created this magnificent landscape precisely in Europe, and why He had to bring Jerusalem’s pure air to it.
To explain this, we shall digress slightly. Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Rav, “Israel knew perfectly well that there was nothing to idolatry, and they worshipped idols only as a means to permit itself public immorality” (Sanhedrin 63b). Rashi explains that a spirit of indecency seized the Children of Israel and they wanted to rid themselves of it, but a spirit of idolatry did not take hold of them. This is very surprising. Is it possible that the generation of the desert, which heard the voice of G-d speaking to them from out of the fire (Deuteronomy 4:12), and which witnessed all sorts of miracles, was drawn to lewd behavior? How was such a thing possible, especially for that generation, which even in Egypt had maintained all of its purity in this area? They had not damaged the covenant of circumcision, and they had changed neither their names, nor their language, nor their style of dress (Vayikra Rabba 32:5). Furthermore, they had sanctified themselves after passing through the 49 gates of impurity (Zohar Yitro 39a), and they had received the Torah! Did they need to go and make a golden calf in order to permit themselves this lewdness that they had so carefully protected themselves against while in Egypt?
Concerning this, it must be explained that the generation of the desert arrived at this terrible situation because it neglected Torah study. Now we know that idleness leads to boredom, which leads to indecency (Ketubot 59b) and a degree of depravity that cannot even be imagined. This is why the Children of Israel pretended to deceive Heaven by saying that they needed a leader as powerful as Moses, and that for him to be accepted by everyone (even according to Aaron), it had to be done by sorcery, which is why they made the calf. Yet inside their hearts they knew very well that all this wasn’t true, and that if they had wanted to, they could have destroyed it without anyone preventing them. They only wanted to allow themselves to behave lewdly because that’s what they had in mind given their negligence in Torah study and the boredom that ensued, and they were not able to save themselves from this desire.
This shows us the seriousness of neglecting Torah study, for even with as great a generation as that one, it leads to depravity, and even to idolatry, forbidden relations, and murder. Consequently, it is forbidden to take a break from the holy Torah. The goal of relaxation should only be for soul-searching in order to continue to attach oneself to G-d and to become aware of one’s responsibility in the world. Everything that G-d created in His universe is designed so that man doesn’t remain idle for a single moment, so that he doesn’t arrive at boredom and committing grave sins. Yet when he rests, he should renew himself in his service of G-d and contemplate Creation. He should say, “How abundant are Your works, O L-RD” (Psalms 104:24). He will then know and understand Who created all of this, and his love for his Creator will increase. When he finds himself in the mountains, the pure air will inspire wisdom in him.
This is complete understandable, for G-d did everything for the Children of Israel, not for the delight of those who reject His yoke and claim that everything is natural. Such people want to allow themselves everything that is forbidden, arriving at indecency, idolatry, violence and murder. They obey all their instincts and transgress laws by even crossing some animal species with others, still thinking that G-d will continue to allow things to be, without realizing that He can also destroy everything and reconstruct everything.
This is why, in reality, even when Israel is in exile, G-d ensures that he enjoys the splendors of nature. This is due to the simple fact that contemplating the beauty of nature leads Israel to “ascribe greatness to our G-d” (Deuteronomy 32:3) and realize that everything comes from Him, contrary to those who believe that everything is natural and self-evident. In Parsha Haazinu we learn to see G-d in everything, to become aware that everything stems from Him, and to realize that we should not slacken in Torah study.