Ha’azinu -- Deuteronomy 32:1–52

va_thc_2006av3237_624x544There is arguably no greater farewell than the one William Shakespeare wrote in this renowned soliloquy from Macbeth:

"Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
And take the present horror from the time,
Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives.
Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.
A bell rings I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.
(2.1.33-61)

If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the noise of the stones revealing Macbeth's evil intentions as he approaches Duncan. It is this sound that cuts through the "present horror," that dreadful silence that emerges in the dead of night.

There could be no greater contrast between the tone of Macbeth’s soliloquy and that of Moses. Moses’ soliloquy is also delivered in verse to the Israelites on the last day of his life. Moses calls Heaven and Earth as his witness as he challenges the Israelites to really take to heart the continuity they are now a part of. Admonitions and warnings against the pitfalls of plenty and the apathy that emerges in getting too comfortable while living in the Promised Land.

As Moses ascends the summit of Mount Nebo in accord with the divine command, he is able to only glance at the Promised Land without ever entering it. Moses dies at the threshold, but his soliloquy overpowers any sense of “present horror”, that dreadful silence that emerges in the dead of night by ensuring the legacy is fulfilled by those who come after to uphold and transmit the Torah.

- Rabbi Glazer

Image credit: "Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1852–1917), as Macbeth in 'Macbeth' by William Shakespeare," by Charles A. Buchel, 1914