Benevolent Ownership by Rabbi Ezra Wiener


In Shirat Haazinu, Moshe tells the history of Bnei Yisrael from the time they were chosen by Hashem and foretells their future.  He begins the history with the phrase (Devarim 32:10) “Yimtza’eihu BeEretz Midbar,” “He (Hashem) found him (Bnei Yisrael) in a desert land.”  Some commentators are bothered by this choice of beginning.  Didn’t Hashem choose Bnei Yisrael at Yetziat Mitzrayim, before they began to travel in the Midbar?  Shirat Haazinu should begin with Yetziat Mitzrayim, the ultimate display of Hashem’s choice of Bnei Yisrael!

The Netziv in Haamek Davar suggests that although this Pasuk does begin the history of Bnei Yisrael, it actually refers to the earlier Pasuk (Devarim 32:6), “Halo Hu Avicha Kanecha,” “Is He (Hashem) not your Father, your Purchaser?”  The title “purchaser” is given to someone who saves a dying person from death or rescues a lowly soul from ignorance and barbarity and grants him knowledge and culture.  In the Midbar, Bnei Yisrael lacked basic food necessities, shelter and protection from wildlife.  Hashem provided for them throughout their forty year sojourn, allowing them to live as civilized people and not like animals.  He also gave Bnei Yisrael the Torah and instructed them how to establish a government and orderly way of life.  Hashem thus gave Bnei Yisrael both a culture and knowledge.  Therefore, explains the Netziv, Shirat Haazinu begins with an account of the Midbar.  The Torah wants to focus on the experience that “earned” Hashem the title “purchaser”, not necessarily on the entire history of the nation.

Perhaps we can now understand a strange juxtaposition in the first Berachah of Shemoneh Esrei.  We refer to Hashem as “Gomel Chasadim Tovim VeKonei HaKol,” “[One who] bestow good kindnesses and [is] owner of everything.”  What do these two phrases have to do with each other?  Using the insight of the Netziv, the meaning becomes clear.  Hashem is called the owner of everything because he bestowed kindness upon everything.  If such is the power of kindness, then the obligation upon all of us to show gratitude to our benefactors is great indeed.

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