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Haazeinu, Shabbos Shuva: A Sign of Divine Acceptance

האזינו השמים ואדברה ותשמע הארץ אמרי פי. יערוף כמטר לקחי וגו'

“The heavens shall hearken and I will speak, and the earth shall listen to the words of my mouth. My words shall descend like rain…” (Devarim 32:1)

Why does the verse speak in such a lengthy manner when it could have said simply: “Heaven and earth shall listen?” Furthermore, why does the verse talk about rain in this context?

In this week’s Haftorah the Navi exhorts us: “Return, Israel, until Hashem your G-d… Take with you these words and return... ” What is the meaning of the word ad – until? It should have said: Return to Hashem your G-d. Additionally, why does the verse urge us to “take” these words? How can words be taken?

We can explain this with a very meaningful insight. We just stood for two days straight in prayer on Rosh Hashanah, beseeching Hashem to be blessed with a good year. We sincerely hope that our prayers were accepted and that we succeeded to bring about Divine favor and mercy. But how can we be sure? How can we know if our tefillos were indeed accepted?

A person who was inspired by the prayers on Rosh Hashanah to seek more closeness to Hashem and continue praying more and more, can be pretty certain that just as he yearns for Hashem, so too Hashem yearns for his prayers and accepts them with love. On the other hand, a person who feels relieved that he finally finished the long Rosh Hashanah prayers and has no desire to continue praying, such a person may assume that Hashem likewise has no special interest in listening to his prayers.

This may be what the verse is hinting at: “The heavens shall hearken and I will speak.” How can I know if Hashem hearkened to my prayers? If “the earth shall listen to the words of my mouth” - if here on earth I yearn to pray more; I yearn to listen to more words of prayer coming from my mouth. This is a good indicator of how well my prayers were received in heaven.

This may also be the meaning of the verse (Yeshaya 65:24): “Before you call to Me, I have already answered. They are still speaking and I listen.” Hashem is telling us that He is ready to accept our prayers even before we utter them. How can we be sure that this is so? If we are still speaking in prayer and we do not tire of pouring our hearts out to Hashem it is a sign that “I listen” – that Hashem is listening to us.

The verse continues: “My words shall descend like rain.” The mention of rain tells us that if we are not deterred by rain, snow or other difficulties when it comes to praying and learning Torah, and we overcome all discomforts and obstacles in order to be able to pray, it is a sign that our connection to Hashem is strong. Just as we are determined to pray despite all difficulties, so too Hashem is determined to listen to us despite our faults and imperfections.

Now we can understand the meaning of the word ad – until. The word ad can also be read eid – witness. The verse can now be interpreted to mean: What serves as a witness to testify that we returned to Hashem and He accepted our prayers? If we “take with us words” – we take more words of prayer and Torah and increase our davening and learning. This is a sign of Divine closeness and acceptance, and an indicator that our prayers for a good, wonderful year have been answered.

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