Spiritually Flabby

Staying in good physical condition requires regular exercise and self-discipline. Staying in good spiritual shape requires no less effort.

Cartoon of a man celebrating his riches. (Image: © Bigstock)

Ha'azinu

Regular Shabbat Readings

  • Ha'azinu (הַאֲזִינוּ | Listen)
  • Torah: Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52
  • Haftarah: 2 Samuel 22:1-51
  • Gospel: John 6:26-35

Regular readings above are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the current Torah Portion Schedule for all these variations, and special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Deuteronomy 31:30 | The Song of Moses
    • Deuteronomy 32:48 | Moses' Death Foretold
  • Prophets
    • 2 Samuel 22:1 | David's Song of Thanksgiving

Portion Summary

The word Ha'azinu (הַאֲזִינוּ‎) literally means "give ear," an expression meaning "Listen to this." It is also the name of the fifty-third and second-to-last reading from the Torah. It is the first word of the Song of Moses, which begins with the words "Give ear (Ha'azinu), O heavens, and let me speak" (Deuteronomy 32:1). This Torah portion is only a single chapter long, and the majority of it consists of the Song of Moses. The Song of Moses is a prophetic oracle warning Israel about apostasy to come and the resulting wrath of God. The song looks far into the future, even envisioning the Messianic advent amid rich and frightening apocalyptic imagery. After the conclusion of the song, Moses is told to ascend Mount Nebo and overlook the Promised Land before dying.


Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to lose weight but how easy it is to put it on? Spirituality and godliness are not easier disciplines to master than weight loss.

Moses refers to Israel as Jeshurun (Yeshurun, יְשֻׁרוּן).

But Yeshurun grew fat and kicked—you are grown fat, thick, and sleek—then he forsook God who made him, and scorned the Rock of his salvation. (Deuteronomy 32:15)

Moses used the name Yeshurun to contrast Israel's great spiritual potential with their fallen condition. It is a word derived from the root yashar (ישר), which means to be "upright." Yeshurun means "upright one," and the word is used as a term of endearment for Israel. The people of God are to be morally upright and straight before the LORD. The Greek (LXX) version of the Torah translates the word as "beloved one." In the Song of Moses, however, the term Yeshurun is used sarcastically to describe an apostate Israel that was once upright but is no longer so.

Moses foretold that when the children of Israel entered the land of Canaan, God would give them all the bounty of the land. The people of Israel were destined to enjoy "the produce of the field ... honey from the rock ... oil ... curds of cows, and milk of the flock, with fat of lambs, and rams ... and goats, with the finest of the wheat—and of the blood of grapes ... wine" (Deuteronomy 32:13-14). Moses predicted that Israel's success in the land would result in apathy toward God and a desire for materialism. All that good eating was going to spawn an ungrateful and rebellious spirit. The Talmud says, "A full stomach leads to sin."

Prosperity often places a greater obstacle between us and God than poverty does. The poor man looks to God for help continually. The prosperous man can find it easy to forget about God. Perhaps this is why Yeshua teaches us, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matthew 5:3), which is to say, "Blessed are those who have the humble attitude of a poor man."

The Song of Moses goes on to portray Yeshurun, the upright one, as fat and slovenly—a reference to Israel's fallen moral state. The image is like that of a former Olympic athlete who has become rotund and lethargic.

Improvement and maintenance in our spiritual lives requires daily effort and commitment. Backsliding requires no effort at all. The moment we stop moving forward in our walk with God, the flesh begins to pull us backward. This can be compared to a swimmer who was swimming upstream. It took effort, but so long as he continued to swim, he made steady progress. When he stopped to rest by floating in the water, though, he immediately began to drift downstream. In only a short time, all his progress was lost.

To stay spiritually in shape, we need to press on every day. If we do, we will be upright, worthy of the name Yeshurun. If we are spiritually lazy, though, and allow the flesh to rule us, we will quickly become like the fat, flabby Yeshurun described in Deuteronomy 32.

Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Unrolling the Scroll. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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This year Torah Clubs are studying the Gospels from a Messianic Jewish perspective. Every week Club members encounter Yeshua of Nazareth in his Jewish context. Discover the historical and cultural backdrops of the gospels and be amazed as the teachings of Yeshua snap into focus and clarity. Unravel his difficult words and parables; study Jewish parallels to his teachings; and ultimately know Jesus better.

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