Thoughts on parashat Ha’azinu. 

Have you ever had moments when you feel an intimate connection with God, as if He is right beside you, and then times when He seems so far away? God communicates with us and provides signs that He is watching over us, but He does not “break into our homes” uninvited.

This week’s parasha beautifully highlights God’s perfection, his faithfulness, his justice but it contrasts it with our own unworthy and flawed behavior. This comparison makes it so easy to feel distant to God: 


The Rock!—whose deeds are perfect,

Yea, all God’s ways are just;

A faithful God, never false,

True and upright indeed.

Unworthy children—

That crooked, perverse generation—

Their baseness has played God false.

(Deuteronomy 32:4-5) 


This parashah leaves me wondering, what can we do to “make God” less distant? How do we invite Him into our homes?

There are multiple ways to achieve this connection. The foremost and most obvious way is through prayer. Although the petitioner’s prayer has its place in our tradition, with praise, gratitude and making requests being forms of communication with God, the primary aim of prayer is to invite God to engage in our individual and communal lives, fostering a sense of community with Him. All other aspects of prayer come from this core intention. By inviting him into our homes, inviting Him to actively participate in both our spiritual and practical lives, we expand His presence in the world. But this is not the end, it’s just the beginning. To invite God into our life means to act as His agent in the world, to fulfill the duties that He requires of us. To live according to Jewish law, upholding moral values, showing sensitivity and responsibility, and nurturing our spiritual growth. It is through these behaviors and actions that we really get closer to God. Prayer alone, while powerful, offers only temporary closeness. This is why regular, not occasional, prayer is required. This is why kavanah, or intention, is so crucial. If we seek those fleeting moments of closeness with God, it’s imperative that our prayers are filled with intention and heartfelt meaning, rather than being recited mechanically.. Prayer is a source of inspiration for our actions and a source of strength when they demand it. In the modern context of computer science, prayer can be likened to a form of self-programming and a means of providing the energy required for proper functioning. 

If prayer does not align with meaningful action, it often loses its effectiveness and relevance. Yes, we are still communicating with God, but we shouldn’t expect a significant impact on our lives. By “action,” I understand both tangible actions aimed at creating real changes in our surrounding reality and “internal” pursuits, spiritual and intellectual activities aimed at our spiritual and intellectual growth. Both types of activities need to be balanced. If we focus only on our spiritual growth while neglecting our practical life, our spiritual wellbeing may thrive, but our practical life could suffer. For instance, if you spend too much time on prayer and religious observance and lose touch with our surrounding reality. Conversely, if we exclusively prioritize practical matters and neglect our spirituality, we might end up leading a decent life but face spiritual misery, making us overly dependent on external factors like circumstances, other people, our current job or even our habits.

The more devoted we are to applying the Divine laws, principles and wisdom of our tradition, the closer God becomes to us. God is present in every mitzvah we consciously perform, in every blessing we consciously say and in every Jewish ritual in which we consciously participate. When we engage in all of these practices, He remains with us, especially during times of need. That is why it is crucially important to strike a balance between the spiritual and practical aspects of our lives. With this equilibrium, the spiritual aspect can serve as a guiding force throughout our lives, while the practical allows us to enjoy the taste of all its fruits. If there were a specific Jewish recipe for happiness, this would likely be it.

Shabbat shalom, 

G’mar Chatima Tova!  


Rabbi Menachem Mirski

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