The Jewish Studio

Balancing the Scales


Amidst hopes for a good and sweet new year, this week’s Torah portion (Ha’azinu) between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur brings the swan song of Moses as he prepares to die. It’s no coincidence that these two poignant moments come together now.

In a sense, Moses’ preparation to die evokes our own. Each year, tradition calls us to rehearse our death at Yom Kippur – a reminder of our mortality, arousing our courage to act, forgive, repair and transform our lives while we still live (B.T. Shabbat 153a).

For many of us, however, rehearsing death asks too much (its difficulty might distract or inhibit us) – or it asks too little (death is an easy way out: as “George Washington” sang in the musical “Hamilton”, “Dying is easy, young man. Living is harder”).

If “rehearsing death” seems too hard or too easy, then Ha’azinu offers two alternatives.

One is to write the poem of your life. That’s what Moses did: this week’s Torah portion is Moses’ poetic song of his life. We can do likewise not to prepare for death, but to launch the life we most yearn to live. This time is especially potent for its power to inspire transformation: why not now?

Another is to see in Ha’azinu a chance to re-balance our lives: the ideal life is lived in balance. Unique in the Torah, typographically Ha’azinu lays in two perfectly balanced columns, evoking the balance for which Moses yearns. Even the word Ha’azinu means balance: its Hebrew root also means to “balance the scales” (Lev. 19:36).

Now is when we balance the scales. We seek renewed balance in our lives. We balance the renewal of our lives with the poignant reminder that all human life is finite. Rebalanced within, we remember anew to treasure each day, that we may attain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12).

L’shanah tovah tichateimun: may you and your loved ones be sealed for a renewed life of balance and goodness in the year ahead.

Originally published at The Jewish Studio.

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