Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Change Up

3 Tishrei 5774 / September 6-7, 2013

This week’s portion, Ha’azinu, takes the form of a poem, which the text tells us Moses recited in front of the entire nation.  While arguably not as talented a Jewish poet as Shel Silverstein, Moses’s poetic skills aren’t too shabby, with some pretty nice imagery shared.

For example:

May my discourse come down as the rain,
My speech distill as the dew,
Like showers on the young growth,
Like droplets on the grass.     (Deut. 32:2)

Impressive, right?  And this goes on for 43 verses!

Emma Lazarus (another famous Jewish poet) would be proud.

Why would Moses choose to deliver this final teaching to the Israelites in the form of a poem, when his previous speeches had overwhelmingly been lecture-style? 

What can we glean from this decision?

A few potential reasons I can think of:

·      Changing up the way you address people makes a huge difference.  While a traditional lecture style might work for some, more and more we’re learning about the various ways that people process information and learn.  Utilizing a different speech delivery style may have helped Moses connect with a part of the audience that was otherwise disengaged.  After a book-long speech given by Moses to the Israelites (seriously – the entire book of Deuteronomy is Moses’s final speech), perhaps the poem was his summation of everything he’d already said, and he chose to deliver it in a form that would make it distinguishable from everything else he had said up to that point.

·      If the ultimate goal is for the Israelites to remember much of what he has said, putting his language into poetic form may have been a mechanism to help the nation memorize his words with comparative ease.

·      He wanted to show off what a master poet he was, and to inspire future generations of Jews to pursue poetic endeavors.

As this Shabbat falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, technically, it is the first Shabbat of the Jewish new year of 5774.  Make sure to set aside some time in the year to come to change things up a bit.  If you usually do something in one manner, try doing it in a different one.  Stretch yourself.  Mix it up.  Continue the lifelong process of self exploration and growth.  Report back.  L'shana tova!

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