Impermanent Things (Parashat Ha’azinu)
All these impermanent things
Well, they all add up to zero they make believe that they’re my hero
Then they fill my mind with doubt and false desires
Why keep hangin’ on to things that never stay,
Things that just keep stringin’ us along from day to day?
“Impermanent Things” (song) (1991)
Singer-songwriter Peter Himmelman vividly captures the transient nature of life itself in his song Impermanent Things. And despite life’s transiency, it can be difficult to always bear in mind what is truly important. In Parashat Ha’azinu (Deuteronomy 32:4) we catch a glimpse of permanence when we read that God is referred to as The Rock (ha-tzur). The image of God as a Rock symbolizes the Eternal as a “sure source of strength” and highlights that “[God] endures throughout every generation.” Moreover, God is depicted as a “strong refuge in which God’s people may take shelter from any difficulty.”1
God described as a Rock (tzur) is also found in traditional Jewish hymns. One of the Shabbat zemirot, Tzur Mishelo (The Rock from whom), is traditionally sung on Friday nights. Also, the well-known song Ma’oz Tzur (Refuge, Rock of my salvation) commonly sung each night after lighting the Hanukkah candles bears the title of God as the “Rock of my salvation.”
We are now in the midst of the Aseret Y’mei Teshuvah (Ten Days of Repentance), and with the metaphor of life hanging in the balance this is an opportune time for soul-searching and self-reflection. “These are days of reflection and introspection when we stand in the conscious presence of Infinity, knowing how short and vulnerable life really is, and how little time we have here on earth.”2 Because of life’s ephemeral nature it can be steadying to have something permanent to grasp hold of. Whether we find stability through God’s sheltering presence or some other mode of support, may we all find some sense of permanence and consistency in the year ahead.
- Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Chicago: Moody, 1980. <BibleWorks, v.10.>.
- Sacks, Jonathan. The Koren Rosh HaShana Maḥzor. Jerusalem, Koren Publishers, 2013, pp. xiii-xiv.