Photo Credit: Jodie Maoz

In this week’s parsha we read the final song of Moshe Rabbenu, Ha’azinu Hashamayim, and the haftara most commonly read is the song of David HaMelech at the end of his life. This haftara is also read after the reading of the Song of the Sea (Az Yashir) on the seventh day of Pesach. As we learned previously, it is the opinion of some of the classical commentators that David composed this song continuously over the course of his life, whenever he felt Hashem had saved him from particularly noteworthy peril. We see it here in its final form as brought down in the navi, in Sefer Shmuel Bet.

In this song David praises Hashem for all of the miracles He has done for him personally, and for Israel collectively. Being a military leader, and the conqueror of Israel, David emphasizes victory over our enemies and the strengthening of his and our martial prowess. He says, “You are my candle, Hashem, and Hashem brightens my darkness” (Shmuel II 22:29). In Hebrew this pasuk has the four-letter name of Hashem twice in succession, separated by the letter vav. The Perush HaRokeach on the haftara points out the similarity to the passage we just finished reading during the Aseret Yemei Teshuva: the Thirteen Attributes of Hashem (“Hashem Hashem El Rachum v’Chanun,” etc.) (Shemot 34:6). This in turn raises the question of why the name of Hashem is doubled there.

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There are a number of different approaches to answering this question, but probably the simplest and most straightforward is brought by Rashi from the Gemara in Rosh Hashana (17b). Rashi says this is a reference to Hashem’s attribute of mercy – He is merciful before a person transgresses and also afterwards, in order to accept his repentance. Rabbenu Bechaye explains further that the first name is His mercy as Creator of the universe and the second name is His performance of the acts and deeds of mercy that are necessary to sustain the world. In all events, the duplication of the name demonstrates that they are all the same: the same force, the same G-d, the same mercy. He is Hashem before, and He is still the same Hashem after.

In our haftara David repeats the name as well, and the Perush HaRokeach says this shows how Hashem’s mercy was manifest in everything that befell David and Israel during David’s life. The same name at the beginning, the same name here at the end of his life. Abarbanel stresses that this expression of the unity of the Name is very deliberate on the part of David HaMelech. It is not proper for flesh and blood to represent the immanence of Hashem, as Hashem Himself could do when He revealed the Thirteen Attributes to Moshe Rabbenu. Typically a navi will say “Hashem Elokim,” even spelling the two words with the same letters to emphasize the continuity but to step away from making statements about the essence of Hashem. David HaMelech here separates the terms with the connecting vav. Also, the notes for reading the pasuk denote a pause (etnachta) between them. But the names are still doubled on the page.

Abarbanel explains that there are two aspects to David’s victorious career. He has defeated the enemies of Israel and he has also achieved glory for himself and for the nation. These are also signified by the framing words of the pasuk – Hashem is the candle, He is the source of the glory, and He also brightens darkness, meaning defeats the enemies. But at all times He is Hashem. When He brings spiritual satisfaction and elevation to the spirit, He is Hashem and when He brings physical comforts, wealth, and peace He is also Hashem. There is no difference in the cause or in the effect.

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Avraham Levitt is a poet and philosopher living in Philadelphia. He has written on Israeli art, music, and spirituality and is working to reawaken interest in medieval Jewish mysticism. He can be reached at avraham@thegeula.com.