We Are A Part Of God

Parashat Ha'zinu (Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52)

The word from which we derive the name of our Torah portion, Ha’azinu, comes from the first two words which are, “Give ear,” an idiom that means “listen carefully.” This is the opening line of the Song of Moses, or the Ha’azinu, as it is called in Hebrew. Moses says he is teaching Israel this song to “call heaven and earth to witness against them” (Deuteronomy 31:28). Why does Moses call heaven and earth to testify against Israel? Before the detailed creation of man, Genesis 2:4 proclaims, “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth.” As we have discussed in previous commentaries, the Hebrew behind the word “generations,” is toldot, and can equally be translated as “offspring.” Humans are uniquely the offspring of both God (heaven) and physical matter (earth), having been made of dust animated with the very breath of God. Because of this, Moses calls both heaven and earth to be witnesses against their “children.”

However, there is one aspect of this relationship that is emphasized a few verses later. Deuteronomy 32:8–9 reads, “When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. But the LORD's portion is his people.” From these verses our sages derive the concept of the seventy nations, corresponding to the number of people who went down to Egypt with Jacob (see Genesis 46:27). Throughout the Scriptures, the number seventy is used to represent the nations of the world outside of Israel. And although verse nine seems to simply be a statement that Israel is distinct from those seventy nations and belongs to Hashem, there is a more mystical reading that we should explore.

In the original Hebrew, this text reads, ki chelek Hashem amo, which is translated, “But the LORD's portion is his people.” However, there is neither verb nor preposition in this sentence. This is because many times both verbs and prepositional phrases are implied in Hebrew, rather than being explicit, as is the case here. If we were to translate it hyperliterally, it would read, “For portion LORD his people.” It doesn’t make any sense in English. In Hebrew, however, this ambiguity gives us the flexibility to translate the passage in a few different ways. A classic Chasidic interpretation of this text translates it more literally to say, “But a portion of the LORD is his people,” or more explicitly, “The LORD's people are a portion of Him.” In other words, God’s people are not just his creation, but they are actually a component of Him.

This interpretation is strengthened by several things. First, there is the fact that each human being is infused with the very breath of God, as we discussed earlier. We carry with us a portion of the Divine that gives us life. Second, before the creation of the universe, physical matter, and even time itself, nothing existed except God. God simply was and He was everything. Therefore, anything that was created not only has its origin in God, but its entire matter is somehow a transformation and extension of God’s very being. That’s a very big concept, but one that our sages have discussed at length. Passages, such as Isaiah’s proclamation, “The whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3), undergird this concept.

Another aspect of this interpretation is a bit more challenging. In Psalm 82:6 the LORD says, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.” This is a difficult verse and can quickly be misunderstood or abused. Yeshua quoted it when he said, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?” (John 10:34). Does this mean that we are co-equal to God? Absolutely not. The Hebrew word elohim (translated here as “gods”) is a generic word that has a host of meanings, ranging from God, god, and gods to judges, powers, mighty one, etc. Yeshua used it to defend his claim of being the Son of God. The point of this passage is to remind us that even though we are children of God, we are also mortal.

Why is all of this important? Despite what our culture tells us, humans are distinctly different from animals. We are a part of God. Both you and I have the very breath of God breathed into us, a portion of God himself that animates us differently than the beasts of the field. Not only do we have an advanced level to communicate and reason, but we have a divine soul that animates us. We are driven by a constant exchange between our flesh and our soul. We can choose to represent our Father (Hashem) or our Mother (Earth). We can debase ourselves to become more akin to animals through our speech and actions, or we can elevate ourselves to become more akin to our Creator through our speech and actions. Our actions make us reflections of the one we imitate. When our choices are animalistic we loosen our connection with our Creator and thus become a reflection of the beasts of the field. But when our choices are godly we strengthen our connection with our Creator and thus become a reflection of Him. Have your choices made you more like God or more like an animal? What choices or actions do you want to change that can help you become the reflection of God on this earth that your Heavenly Father desires?