The song of Haazinu—the song Moses sang to the Jewish people on the final day of his life, the song that encompasses all of Jewish history, from the “days ofDid G‑d just chance upon the Jews? yore” to the future redemption—begins with a description of the great kindness that G‑d did for the Jewish people. G‑d protected them in the desert and gave them His most precious treasure—the Torah. As Moses tells the people in the beautiful, poetic language of Haazinu:

He [G‑d] found them in a desert land, and in a desolate, howling wasteland. He encompassed them and bestowed understanding upon them; He protected them as the pupil of His eye.1

Most of this verse is clear: “He encompassed them”—G‑d surrounded the children of Israel in the desert and protected them with the “clouds of glory.” “Bestowed understanding upon them”—He gave them the Torah. But what is the meaning of “He found them in a desert land”? The word “found” implies that the finder found something unexpected. Did G‑d just happen to find the Jews roaming in the desert? Did He not take them out of Egypt and lead them into the desert Himself?

Rashi, the primary Biblical commentator, explains that G‑d did indeed find the unexpected in the desert, in the Jews’ expression of profound faith in G‑d when following Moses into an inhospitable desert and accepting the Torah. As Rashi explains:

He found them in a desert land: G‑d found them [the children of Israel] faithful to Him in a desert land, for they accepted His Torah, His sovereignty, and His yoke upon themselves—something that Ishmael and Esau did not do,

In a desolate, howling wasteland: An arid, desolate land, a place of howling jackals and ostriches. Yet even there, the children of Israel were faithful. They did not say to Moses, “How can we go out into the desert, a place of drought and desolation?”

In the desert G‑d found the unexpected; He found a people that was committed to Him and believed in Him, in a way that was beyond reason.

Many relationships are rational. People fall in love because they mutually benefit each other. There is a give and takeMany relationships are rational that makes the relationship beneficial for each partner. But then there comes a time when, for the relationship to survive, what is necessary is not a calculated love, but a love and commitment that is beyond the rational relationship.

Every relationship begins with two happy partners who both feel that they are gaining something from the relationship. But what separates the enduring relationship from the transient one is that somewhere along the way, a deeper, unexpected commitment is “found.” At some point, the partners look at themselves and are surprised at the level of feeling and connection they feel, a connection and commitment that is beyond the give and take of investment and reward. When a couple “falls out of love,” when the reason for the initial attraction no longer exists, the relationship will not endure unless a deeper connection was “found” along the way.

When people become parents, they are often overwhelmed with love and devotion to their baby. But no matter how great the love is then, at some point later on in the child’s life, there is usually a surprise. The parents are surprised to have found a devotion and commitment to their child that is far greater than what they ever could have imagined.

The same is true about our relationship with G‑d. Initially, the connection between G‑d and the Jewish people was a contractual one, where each party was supposed to give something in return for what they would get. G‑d would redeem the people from Egypt, bring them to their ancestral land, the Land of Israel, and in turn, the people would uphold their part of the deal by keeping the Torah. This was a reasonable deal for both parties.

But then the unexpected happened. In the desert, G‑d found a deeper dimension of the relationship. In the desert, G‑d discovered the Jewish people’s loyalty when they followed Moses into the frightening desert, beyond the dictates of reason.2 This was no longer a calculated relationship. The people dug deep within theirInitially, our connection with G‑d was a contractual one hearts, and found within themselves a commitment to G‑d that was deeper than they had ever anticipated.

The portion of Haazinu is read in proximity to Sukkot, the festive seven-day holiday that follows Yom Kippur and is an expression of the deep joy in our connection with G‑d. Celebrating in the sukkah, commemorating G‑d’s placing our ancestors in sukkahs as they left Egypt, we “find ourselves,” just as G‑d “found” the Jews in the desert. When we leave our home to dwell in the sukkah, we leave behind the notions of self that limit us. We realize that within each of us there are hidden, unexpected treasures waiting to be mined and discovered.

We each contain infinite hidden strength, courage, kindness and holiness. As we begin the new year, as we sit in the sukkah celebrating G‑d’s embrace, let us surprise ourselves: let us find our true selves.3