Making Sense of the Sedra: Ha’azinu

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Making Sense of the Sedra: Ha’azinu

Singing a song of history

'Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it'

The Jewish people are poised to enter the Promised Land and Moshe delivers his final message as a song that fuses past, present and future. He reminds the people of where they are coming from and offers sage advice for the challenges that they will face as an independent nation in their own land. He describes the misfortunes that they will face and the damage God will wreak on their oppressors.

When we read through this week’s sedra, Ha’azinu, the penultimate one in the Torah, we are treated to a history lesson like no other. As a student, it upset me to see how history bored some of my classmates to tears. Facts, figures, names and battles were to be memorised and regurgitated without much thought or analysis.

I have had the privilege to redress this by enabling thousands of young Jews to visit Poland to engage with their history first hand in a personal and meaningful way. One of the most powerful quotes they encounter, attributed to George Santayanam, is written at the entrance to Auschwitz block 4: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The Torah uses the word zikaron (memory) to teach us that history is our story, an ongoing narrative that is part of our lives.

Parshat Ha’azinu is a history lesson set to a song – in fact the Hebrew word for song is shir, which can also mean a chain (Mishna Shabbat 5:1). This evokes powerful images of seder night, where our epic story is set to song. When a family sings passionately about their identity this infuses history with life and safeguards thereby protecting our heritage for future generations like shiryon, a suit of armour (which in ancient times was made of chainmail).

It is no coincidence that this week’s parsha falls between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, when we also express our hopes, dreams and aspirations for ourselves, the Jewish people and the world at large through singing our prayers. May we all have an uplifting Yom Kippur, one where we unite as a people who sing of a better world and then go and turn that dream into a reality.


Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: