Parashat Ha’Azinu is comprised of a poem warning the People of Israel of their impending rebellion against God. Moses calls upon the heaven and earth to witness his words.

The second verse of chapter 32 reads: “May my teaching drop like rain, may my utterance flow like the dew; like the storm winds upon vegetation and like raindrops upon blades of grass.” I have read two interpretations of this verse, and I would like to share them with you.

The first interpretation comes from the medieval commentator Rashi. He states that the rain in this verse refers to the words of Torah. Moses asked that the Torah penetrate the People of Israel like life-giving rain and like dew. Storm winds give strength and life to vegetation, and similarly, the struggle to master Torah gives us, its students, life and purpose. Moses wanted the words of Torah to penetrate the people and make it fruitful, like the rain and dew.

The second interpretation comes from Rabbi Bunim of Parshisco. Rabbi Bunim understands this verse very differently. Whereas Rashi understood the rain to be the words of Torah, Rabbi Bunim understands the rain to indicate words of admonition. He states that when rain falls on trees and plants, growth is not immediately noticeable. It takes time for the rain to have a visible effect. This is also true with admonition. Very often we will try to help a person improve themself, but we will not see a change in that person. Rabbi Bunim says that we must keep trying because persistence and a smile go a long way.

I believe that both of these interpretations provide us with much to think about as we begin this new Jewish year.