Should We Emulate Moses or Isaiah? - האזינו

Friday, 22 September, 2023 - 2:18 pm


Should We  Emulate Moses or Isaiah? 

Moses began the song of Haazinu with poetic language. He called upon both heaven and earth to bear witness to his parting words to the Jewish people: 

Give ear, O heavens, let me speak; Let the earth hear the words I utter! (Deuteronomy 32:1)

The Midrash points out that Isaiah too, in his very first prophecy, employed a similar phrase: 

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth (Isaiah 1:2)

However, there is a significant difference between the words of Moses and Isaiah.

Upon addressing the heavens, Moses who was “close to heaven” in a spiritual sense, used the term "give ear", (Haazinu), which implies addressing someone who is close by. And since Moses was distant from  earthly matters, he used the term, "let the earth hear", as "hear" can imply hearing from a distance. Isaish, by contrast, was "distant from the heavens and close to the earth", and therefore he said, "Hear {from, a distance}, O heavens, and give ear {implying closeness}, O earth". 

The question, of course, is, where does that leave us? 

The etymology of the word Torah is a lesson, because every phrase in the Torah is not just informative, but rather it is intended for us to implement in our own life. If Isaiah could not live up to Moses' example and be "close to the heavens", how can we possibly expect to be "close to the heavens and distant from the earth"? 

In a beautiful essay on our Torah portion, the Rebbe explains that the two expressions of Moses and Isaiah build upon each other. At first, one is called upon to be like Moses, "close to the heavens and distant from the earth". When we begin our day, we dedicate time to pray and study, dedicating a few moments to escape the confines of earth and soar to the expanses of heaven. In these moments, we, like Moses, are close to the heavens. Yet, that is but the first step in our spiritual journey. The greater and perhaps more critical achievement is that after we are like Moses, we advance and learn from Isaiah. We turn toward earth. Because the purpose of life is not to find solace in heaven but rather to extend our influence into the world. After we study Torah and become "close to the heavens", we are empowered to become "close to the earth", transforming it into a place of spirituality and harmony, until the time when earth itself will become a home for G-d, a place of goodness, kindness, and holiness.   

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe, Lekutei Sichos 9 Haazinu 1

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