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Robert Frost once said, “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought, and the thought has found words.”

In Moses’ case, emotion, thought, and words found each other at the very end of his long discourse to the Children of Israel, when he moved from prose to poetry:
“Give ear, O heavens, let me speak;
Let the earth hear the words I utter!
May my discourse come down as the rain,
My speech distill as the dew,
Like showers on young growth,
Like droplets on the grass.”  (Deuteronomy 32:1-2)
Deuteronomy is told in Moses’ voice, and throughout he exhorted the people to follow God’s laws and be their highest selves. He was worried because he knew that he was about to die and he wouldn’t be able to help them when they invariably made mistakes.

Of course he knew they will go astray – they hadn’t behaved very well in the desert when they were essentially isolated. How could they do so in the Promised Land, where they would be surrounded by other nations?
And so he sang them a poem.

I don’t think it’s an accident that this is the Torah portion we read on the Shabbat immediately after Yom Kippur. It is called Ha’azinu, which literally means “give ear” but can also be translated as listen! much as we translate the word Shema. Moses was trying, almost desperately, to get the people to pay attention.
But sometimes we don’t see (or hear) what is right in front of us. Several years ago a small crack appeared on the driver’s side of my windshield. Most of the time I didn’t even notice it. Sometimes I couldn’t stop seeing it. Those were the times that I reminded myself, “oh yes, I have to take care of that.” But I would forget.

Then one day last year a truck kicked up a pebble that made another crack, this time on the passenger’s side. It took another year, but I finally replaced the windshield. But I still think about the four years I spent living with that small crack. How sometimes, a subtle reminder isn’t enough. Sometimes you need someone to start shouting poetry at you to sit up and take notice.

The windshield crack was very much a part of my life. It was a reminder of the cracks in me, the ones I wanted to repair, maybe filling them with gold like they do in Japan, not trying to hide the seam but rather exulting in the opportunity to repair and in so doing, bring beauty.

Now that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are behind us, it can be easy to forget the promises we made to ourselves, to each other, and to the Divine. The Torah is here to remind us, through Moses and especially his final song, that we need to remember our promises, see the cracks, and to continue to do the important work of improving ourselves and healing the world.