The weekly Parsha – Parshas Ha’azinu

This week’s Torah portion, Ha’azinu, opens with Moses’ words: “Listen, heaven, and I will speak; hear, earth, the words of my mouth.” With these words Moses called upon heaven and earth to bear witness concerning his admonitions and exhortations to the Jewish people regarding their performance of Torah and mitzvot (the commandments).

The commentary Sifrei offers an explanation for Moses’ selection of heaven and earth as witnesses. “Listen heaven” – because Torah was given from heaven; “hear earth” – because upon it the Jewish people stood when they accepted the Torah and said “All that G-d spoke we shall obey and hear.”

Torah and mitzvot were given to us by G-d, Who is infinitely higher than heaven and earth. In seeking to exhort Israel to a greater degree of performance of Torah and mitzvot, it is logical to assume that this could be best accomplished by stressing the fact that Torah and mitzvot were given by G-d, rather than by focusing upon the point that Torah and mitzvot are connected to heaven and earth. Why, then, the emphasis on heaven and earth?

A Jew is expected to serve G-d on two levels: on one hand he is expected to serve G-d with pure and simple faith and with acceptance of the Heavenly Yoke – elements that derive from the soul’s essence. On the other hand his service must permeate his internal powers of intellect and emotions so that they too understand and feel G-dliness.

In practical terms this means that a Jew is to connect his soul’s essence with his inner powers, so that not only does he serve G-d in thought, speech, and action out of a sense of simple faith, but he also comprehends G-dliness in his mind and loves and fears Him in his heart.

Moreover, a Jew is expected not only to serve G-d in the general and ongoing manner of regular Torah and mitzvot, he is also to serve Him through repentance – teshuva. This level of service, a level of service that emanates from the soul’s essence and seeks the innermost aspect of G-dliness, must permeate the person’s powers of intellect and emotion as well.

This is why when Moses desired to rouse the Jews to the service of Torah and mitzvot, whose performance was to be not only with pure faith but with the inner powers of intellect and emotion as well, he mentioned that Torah and mitzvot were given through heaven and earth.

Thus, he aroused within the Jewish nation their inner “heaven and earth,” and the lesser powers of emotion, speech and action that are likened to and on the level of earth.