The portion Haazinu
opens with Moshe saying,
"Listen, heaven, and I will speak; earth, hear the words of my mouth." Our Sages note
that since Moshe was closer to "heaven" than to "earth," he therefore used a term denoting closeness -- "listen," (haazinu
) -- with regard to the heavens and a term denoting distance, "hear," with regard to earth.
As every Jew possesses a "spark" of Moshe within him, it follows that this greater degree of closeness to heaven than to earth is realized not only within Moshe, but also in the life of every Jew. Which is why when Moshe addressed the Song of Haazinu to the Jewish people he used an expression that was seemingly more germane to him than to them.
Truly, this must be understood. How is it possible that while we are found on "earth," a soul vested in a body within this physical world, a world so lowly that there is none lower, that we all be in a state where we are "close to heaven and distant from earth"?
Moreover, ostensibly the state of "close to heaven and distant from earth" is paradoxical to the intent and purpose of the soul's descent to earth. For the purpose of our descent here below is specifically to affect and transform the earth, as G-d desired that we make for him a dwelling within this lowly earth.
Later on in Haazinu, while describing the merits and special qualities of the Jewish people, the verse states, "For [G-d's] people is a part of G-d; Yaakov is the rope of His inheritance."
Even while on this lowly earth every Jew is a "part of G-d," as the soul of every Jew is "verily a part of G-d above." So, too, is each and every Jew part of "His inheritance" -- an inheritor who takes the actual place of the one he inherits from. As possessors of these unique qualities, all Jews are of the status of "close to heaven and distant from earth."
Thus, the essential condition of the Jewish people is such that their elemental and inherent connection is only to "heaven" and not to "earth." Consequently, their intrinsic connection to heaven is discernible even when they do occupy themselves with earthly matters, something that they do in order to transform this "earthly" world into a dwelling place for G-d.
More specifically: The concept that every Jew is closer to "heaven" than to "earth," denotes the remarkable spiritual strength and tenacity of the Jewish people as they find themselves on "earth":
That is to say, they are not spiritually limited to being on earth in an "escapist" manner, where they have to flee earthly matters and be wholly nullified to G-d in order to exist here. Rather, their spirituality is so powerful and robust that their entire being can truly be here on earth, and yet they retain their entire spirituality.
It is specifically because of this dual ability to be wholly spiritual and yet at the same time find themselves entirely "grounded" on this earth, that Jews are able to transform the earthiness of the world into an abode for G-d.
So, too, with regard to the verse, "For [G-d's] people is a part of G-d; Yaakov is the rope of His inheritance":
This is not a matter of negation and nullity of the nation and people, but the most potent form of existence -- they retain all their individual qualities and at the same time become a nation and a people that is entirely G-dly.
For with regard to a nation and people we find two opposite aspects. On one hand, a nation is composed of a multitude of individuals, each of whom differs from the others in his knowledge, talents, occupation and the like.
On the other hand, this is not just an array and aggregation of separate and distinct individuals. Rather, they all group together to form one nation under the leadership of their king. Which is to say, the king leads the nation both with regard to each individual's private life as well as leading the nation as a whole.
This is accomplished by all citizens banding together into one nation, so that each one fulfills his individual task, and collectively, the task of the nation as a whole.
Put slightly differently: Accepting the yoke of the king does not negate the uniqueness of the individuals, rather they all attain a greater degree of strength by becoming part of the king's nation.
Being a member of "G-d's people" thus assures us individuality and divine potency at one and the same time; it enables us to be on "earth," and yet be "close to heaven and distant from earth."
Based on Sefer HaSichos 5750, Vol. I, pp. 18-22.
- (Back to text) Devarim 32:1.
- (Back to text) Sifrei beginning of Haazinu.
- (Back to text) See Tanya, beginning of ch. 42.
- (Back to text) See Tanchuma, Naso 16; Tanya beginning of chapter 36, et al.
- (Back to text) Devarim 32:9.
- (Back to text) See Bava Basra 159a.