Parshat Haazinu: Deuteronomy 32:1-52; II Samuel 22:1-51.
Sometimes we catch ourselves repeatedly saying something to our kids and not being listened to: “Turn off the light;” “Don’t stay up late;” “Do your homework.”
Other times we go so far as to list outcomes and consequences to different actions but still it feels like we are talking to the walls.
A prevalent example is the pressure that teenagers feel regarding living up to their parents’ standards for getting into a select college. While parents are constantly telling their children that they love and accept them regardless, the teens just don’t seem to hear that.
This week’s Torah portion can be looked at in two ways. At first glance, it may seem that Moshe is desperately trying to tell us the consequences of our choices one last time, hoping that the message would finally sink in. To which one could ask, “If I didn’t listen until now, what’s going to make this message be any different?”
Alternatively, Haazinu can be seen as a message to us about how to tell those around us what we really want to say. In this parshah, Moshe changes his whole approach. While nearly the entire Torah and all of Moshe’s conversations are written in prose, Haazinu is written as a poem. Moshe’s underlying message was that no matter where we fall within the poem, we belong equally. This message is reinforced by a tradition that everyone’s name is alluded to within this poem; some names are easier to find and some may be quite obscured, but together they all form the community that has lasted for generations.
Haazinu covers both positives and negatives, compliments and critiques; yet in this framework, we are much more open to taking a deeper look at what Moshe is trying to say. We feel safer; our defenses are down, and we can more easily process and internalize the messages of self-acceptance and self-growth.
This is how we have to educate our youth. More than the words we say, our whole approach should reflect that no matter what our teens accomplish or what academic achievement they reach, they still have a place within our community. Furthermore, their place in the community is not earned or valued according to what they do right or wrong.
In a poem, every word carries weight and is valued, so, too, each one of us. It is this foundation of unconditional acceptance that will allow our teens to truly self-reflect and recognize areas of improvement without judgment or shame.
As we enter this new year and explore resolutions for ourselves, our families and community, maybe we should consider that rather than making a new resolution, an old resolution can be made in a whole new way.
Rabbi Yarden Blumstein is the teen director at Friendship Circle of Michigan and leads a minyan class at Frankel Jewish Academy.