“Listen heavens and I shall speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth!” (Deut. 32:1)
Most of parsha Haazinu (“Listen In”) consists of a 70 line “song” that Moses recites to his people on the day of his death. He describes God’s kindness to the Jews, but predicts that they will eventually turn away from their Creator. Moses then launches into a gut-wrenching litany of the horrors God will inflict on the Jewish people when they abandon their Covenant. They will suffer famine; they will be attacked by demons, wild beasts and venomous snakes; Jews of all ages will die by the sword.
Moses’ song was sung by the Levites in the Holy Temple on Shabbat, one section per week, completing the song every six weeks. But this song seems like an odd choice. On weekdays, the Levites sang happy songs, fulfilling the commandment to serve God with joy (Deut. 28:47). So why sing a song with so much sadness on Shabbat? Yes, parts of the song of Haazinu are inspiring, but what about the parts that predict terrible tragedies for the Jewish people? How could a person feel inspired while the Levites were singing “I [God] will cause them to be forgotten, their remembrance will be destroyed from mankind”?!
Rabbi Menachem Feldman answers, “in the weeks that the Levites sang the bitter parts of the song, they were teaching us how to overcome the tragic stanzas of our lives.” Our lives don’t contain a constant upbeat soundtrack. Many times all we can hear is pain. The message of the Levites is that each stanza is only part of a larger song. If we strive for a connection with God, even when times are tough, we will eventually experience an even deeper level of joy. “No matter what life brings us,” says Rabbi Feldman, “we remember that we are in the middle of a song. If we keep singing, keep playing the notes, we will discover the music. We will discover that there was music all along.”