Given the poetic nature of Ha’azinu [“Give Ear”], language and translation are pervasive topics for this portion. One set of phrases to consider appears in 32:18:

You neglected the Rock who begot [y’lad’cha] you,
Forgot the God who labored to bring you forth [m’chol’lecha] — Plaut/Stein

or

The Rock that birthed you [y’lad’cha], you neglected,
you forgot the God that produced-you-in-labor [m’chol’lecha]. — Fox

Fox includes a footnote: “produced-you-in-labor: A reminder that God is not always perceived in exclusively male imagery in the Bible.” The Torah: A Women’s Commentary (Plaut/Stein) offers extensive notes on the two verbs here — both of which are sometimes used in a gender-neutral or masculine context, but most often “to describe the mother’s role in giving birth.”

The latter commentary also references Isaiah 51:2 — “Look back to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who labored to bring your forth.” — which is the heart of Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg’s high holidays’ drash in Beginning Anew. The Women’s Commentary does not cite this drash but includes a note, similar to Fox’s above, by Bernard Levinson from the Jewish Study Bible.

Plaut compares this verse with Psalms 90:2 — Moses’ third song (see also Ha’azinu: Something to Notice) — noting that “the same feminine imagery is evoked” in “Before You brought forth the earth and the world…”

Only Zornberg examines the odd imagery of a rock giving birth at all.

Please see Source Materials for citations.

Posted by vspatz

Virginia blogs on Jewish topics at "A Song Every Day" and manages the Education Town Hall and #WeLuvBooks sites. More at Vspatz.wordpress.com

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