At the end of last week's parsha, Hashem tells Moshe Rabbeinu to pass the song of Ha'azinu down to the future generations of the Jewish people.
The Tannanim and Amoraim in the gemara in Eruvin see in this command not only the transmission of the message of Ha'azinu in particular, but also a pedagogic strategy for teaching Torah in general.
Rabbi Akiva asks: From where do we know that one must teach this to his students until the teaching is perfectly arranged in their mouths? As it says, "place it in their mouths." Rabbi Akiva, with his tens of thousands of students, knew that it is not about what the teacher is teaching, but about what the student is learning, and that the teacher must assess each student until they have fully mastered the lesson.
Rav Chisda says: Torah is only acquired through simanim- signs. This play on the word sima teaches us to help students remember the material with effective mnemonic strategies. Using acronyms, stories, songs, and associations can help the lesson stick.
We can also suggest a third lesson about Torah from the word shira. It needs to be a song. It has to move our students and bring them joy. The song of Torah needs to inspire our students.
While these lessons focus on the transmission of Torah, this week's parsha has a powerful message for the recipient. The pasuk says: "My lesson will drip like rain; my word will flow like dew; like storm winds on vegetation and like raindrops on grass."
Here too, Chazal take "my word" as a reference to Torah. The connection between Torah and water is one we are familiar with - both sustain life. The Midrash in the Sifri here takes the metaphor to another level. What is it that rain does?
"Just as rain falls on trees and enables them to produce tasty fruit each one depending on its type, the grape vine as it is, the olive tree as it is, the fig tree as it is... [and] the storm winds fall on vegetation and bring them up - some that are black, some that are green, some that are red and some that are white, so too with words of Torah, they produce teachers, good people, wise people, and righteous people."
The rain strikes everything the same way. But the recipients are different, each one uniquely producing its own beautiful fruit and its own beautiful flower. This is also the case with Torah. It is a catalyst - setting off a reaction which makes us develop into the best versions of ourselves. Just as the effect rain has on an apple tree is not the same one it has on an orange tree or a rosebush, Torah stimulates growth by developing our kochot - our best and unique character traits.
With the coming of Sukkot, a holiday with a very pronounced water theme, may we have both the economic success which water symbolizes and spiritual success as we immerse ourselves in the waters of Torah and continue to blossom into the beautiful products we are destined to be.
Questions for the Shabbos table:
- What was your takeaway from the d'var Torah this morning?
- What are character traits of yours that Torah has helped to develop?
- How do these messages fit into the broader message of Parshat Ha'azinu?