A Journey on the Wings of an Eagle – Parashat Haazinu
Most parashat Haazinu is a poem dealing with the connection between the Creator and Bnei Yisrael throughout the generations. Naturally, the poem touches also upon the glorious periods when the nation walked in the path of God and He was close to them, as well as the difficult times when the nation veered away from the path and the Creator distanced Himself,. At the beginning of the poem, there is a description of the birth of this unique relationship, when God chose Am Yisrael.
He found them in a desert land, and in a desolate, howling wasteland. He encompassed them and bestowed understanding upon them; He protected them as the pupil of His eye. An eagle awakens its nest, hovering over its fledglings, it spreads its wings, taking them and carrying them on its pinions. (Dvarim 32:10-11)
Our sages explain the second part as the “eagle allegory”: all fowl carry their chicks in flight using their legs in order to protect them from the eagle that generally flies overhead. The eagle, however, does not fear other fowl, just the arrows of humans, so he carries his checks on his wings as though saying that it is better for the arrow to hit him than hit his offspring. So does the Blessed Be He. When the Egyptians chased Bnei Yisrael near the Red Sea and threw arrows and stones at them, God’s angels and a cloud column stood between the Egyptians and Bnei Yisrael to absorb the arrows and stones. This sermon, though moving, doesn’t seem to compare. There is no doubt that the eagle does something wondrous when he chooses to take the hit of the arrows to protect his offspring, but was placing God’s cloud column there the same? Is God making any sacrifice by the arrows hitting the cloud? The arrows never touched Him and certainly never caused Him pain or endangered Him.
It seems that the story of the Egyptian arrows and the cloud column is an allegory for God’s leadership of Bnei Yisrael through the generations. When God chose the Jewish nation to spread the message of monotheism in the world, He actually “put His Name” on them. He created an inextricable tie between His Name and Honor and the name of honor of Jews. For this reason, when the nations of the world hated Am Yisrael and tried to defame and slander their name, they did it often by cursing the belief in God, which Jews seemed to represent in the world.
This act of tying God’s name with that of Bnei Yisrael expresses God’s tremendous confidence in His sons, and reminds us of the story of the eagle who prefers to take the hit of the arrow than let his sons be hit. But along with the sense of wonder and amazement about this vote of confidence, we must feel the weight of responsibility on our shoulders as we are seen by so many as God’s representatives on earth.
We are now in a time of great closeness to God: between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur days of mercy and slichot and the joyous days of Sukkot and Simchat Torah. Especially during this time, we should be proud and happy that the Creator’s Name is linked to ours – His sons, and along with that, we should make every effort to justify His incredible confidence in us. Our obligation and our privilege is to be suitable representatives who sanctify God’s Name in the world and cause the people of the world to appreciate and admire the Name Honor of the Creator and His people.
By Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Site