Ha'azinu: The Phone Call

By Ilana Grinblat

Published September 08, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Last week, I received an extraordinary phone call from an acquaintance with whom I attended elementary and middle school. She had run into my father on a recent visit to my hometown. He told her how I was doing, so she looked me up and gave me a call.

We had a pleasant conversation, catching up on the last 25 years or so. About ten-minutes into the conversation, she said, “I actually have an ulterior motive for calling you.” “Okay,” I replied, wondering what would come next.

She explained that my father had reminisced with her briefly about the school that we’d both attended. He said I didn’t like the school very much because of a clique that had given me a hard time, and he mentioned the name of the group.

However, my father didn’t realize that she was part of the clique that he mentioned. In the fifth grade, a number of girls formed groups. Each group staked out different parts of the playground, and no one who wasn’t part of that group was allowed to walk in their territory. I wasn’t in any of these cliques, and therefore had only one or two friends during those years.

“I wanted to call and apologize.” She said. She explained that now that she is a mom, she looks back with regret at the way she had behaved as a child. “I don’t believe in a retributive God,” she said, “but with the High Holidays coming up, I figured that I should call and say that for everything I know I did, and anything I didn’t know that I did, I’m sorry.”

I was blown away by her words, which were entirely unexpected. I certainly would never have anticipated that I’d receive such a phone call. “We were kids,” I said. I offered my forgiveness, and told her that I appreciated her words. We agreed to keep in touch.

Although I hadn’t thought about that school in years, her call did give me a measure of healing. I felt like my childhood feelings were honored in retrospect — even if they weren’t at the time. My pain had been heard.

In this week’s Torah portion, Moses approaches his death, and he offers a poem to the people as they are poised to enter the Promised Land. The portion is called Ha’azinu (Give ear). The poem begins:

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.

Moses compares words to precipitation that bring life to plants. The poem’s theme is that repentance can ultimately lead to reconciliation between God and the people. The reading is appropriately read on Shabbat Tshuvah — the Sabbath during the ten days of repentance between Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).

Like Moses’ poem, this phone call reminded me of the power of words to bring healing — even many years after a hurt. Imagine how much renewal would result if during these ten days, each of us made just one phone call to ask for forgiveness.

Rabbi Ilana Grinblat teaches biblical interpretation at the American Jewish University’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two young children.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.