My notes on Haazinu

Parashat Haazinu

Deuteronomy 32

32:3          Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God.

Comment: “ascribe ye greatness unto our God”: This teaching contrasts to Moses’ previous sin of not sanctifying Gd’s name when striking the rock to get water in Numbers 20.


32:4          He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.

 Comment: “Rock”: this alludes to Moses’ earlier striking of a rock in Exodus 17 to get water, following God’s instruction, which did not lead to any punishment. This rock in Hebrew is called “tsur”. The rock Moses struck in Numbers 20 uses a different Hebrew word “sela”, and in this later occasion he did not follow Gd’s instruction to speak to the rock. On the last day of Moses’ life, he chose the word “tsur” (Rock) to describe Gd, to acknowledge that Gd is always right, despite the punishments that Gd gives to any person, including the punishment on Moses himself. (See related comments in “The Midrash says”: Volume 5, by Rabbi Moshe Weissman.)

Moses used this version of the word Rock (tsur)  at least 5 times in this song to describe Gd (in v. 4,15,18,30,31).  These are the first times that Rock (tsur) is used to describe Gd. Later, King David often uses this metaphor in the psalms (e.g. in psalm 18, 27,144). Compared to wood or soil, Rock is unchanging and strong. I presume that ancient people used it to build strong fortresses to shield from the enemies’ arrows and darts, and to shelter from extreme weather conditions. In the New Testament, Christ is also described as the Rock (e.g., 1st Corinthians 10:4). Life situations could change like the weather conditions, but we have an unchanging Rock to rely on. 


32:39          See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.

Comment: “I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal”: Talmud (Pesachim 68a) has a detailed proof that here the Torah teaches resurrection from the dead. Moses believes in resurrection from the dead. His not entering the promised land before death is not the end of the story. In the future he will be resurrected and enter the kingdom of Gd, as Matthew 17 teaches in a vision of transfiguration on a mountain. That is why Moses could praise that Gd is the Rock who is fair, in v4, wholeheartedly, despite facing death later on the same day. In summary, this short portion of Torah (just one chapter), teaches in an indirect way before Moses’ departure, that Gd is just, despite this world may seem unjust, since there will be resurrection from the dead, leading to a life in the world to come.

The proof from Talmud (Pesachim 68a) (that the current verse teaches resurrection from the dead) is in a lively conversational style, which is highly worthwhile reading. I copy it here, since it teaches a typical Jewish style of Bible interpretation:

‘Rava raised a contradiction between two parts of a verse. It is written: “I put to death and I make live” (Deuteronomy 32:39) and in that same verse it is written: “I wound and I heal.” Now once it says that He gives life to the dead, all the more so is it not clear that He can heal those who are still alive? What then does the second clause add to the first? Rather, the second clause clarifies the first one: The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: Those same people whom I put to death I will bring to life, just as those people whom I wounded I will heal. In other words, the verse means to say that just as God will heal the same people He wounded, so will He revive those He put to death; and not, as the verse might otherwise have been understood, that He puts some people to death and gives life to others.

Similarly, the Sages taught in a baraita: “I put to death and I make live”; one might have thought that this refers to death for one person and life, i.e., birth, for another person, in the customary manner of the world. Therefore, the verse states: “I wound and I heal”; just as the wounding and the healing mentioned here clearly refer to the same person, so too death and life refer to the same person. From this verse, there is a refutation to those who say that there is no Torah source for the resurrection of the dead, for it is explicitly mentioned in this verse. Alternatively, the verse can be explained as follows: At first, those whom I put to death I will bring to life, but they will be revived with the same injuries that they had when they died; and subsequently, those whom I wounded I will heal, meaning that their injuries will be healed after they are resurrected.’

(Copied from

English from The William Davidson digital edition of the Koren Noé Talmud, with commentary by Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, Source:, License: CC-BY-NC)


32:48          And the LORD spake unto Moses that selfsame day, saying,

Comment: This is on the last day of Moses’ life in “this world”.


32:51          Because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of MeribahKadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel.

Comment: This recalls Moses past failure, which was opposite to his new teaching in v3: “ascribe ye greatness unto our God”.


32:52          Yet thou shalt see the land before thee; but thou shalt not go thither unto the land which I give the children of Israel.

Comment: This recalls the punishment decreed on Moses. The recap of Moses’s failure and the punishment he receives appears in the same chapter as Moses’s song. This hints at the interpretations of Moses’s song that I mentioned above, regarding the use of the keyword “rock”, the concept that Gd is just, and the concept of resurrection from the dead.