"Give ear, O heavens, and hear, O earth…" (Deut. 32:1)

Moses addressed heaven and earth because they are subject to the Jews. If the Jews perform G‑d's will - or even resolve to perform G‑d's will - heaven and earth must perform the will of the Jewish people, providing them with their means of sustenance. Moses' consciousness was that of the world of Atzilut; Isaiah's consciousness was that of the world of Beriya

The prophet Isaiah also addressed heaven and earth, but in the opposite way that Moses addressed them. He said (Isaiah 1:2), "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth." Midrash Tanchuma explains that this is because one can ask someone close to him "to give ear" but can ask someone far from him only "to hear". Since Moses was closer to heaven than to earth, he asked heaven to "give ear" and earth to "hear" him. Isaiah, relatively, was closer to earth than to heaven, so he asked earth to "give ear" and heaven only to "hear."

Moses' consciousness was that of the world of Atzilut; Isaiah's consciousness was that of the world of Beriya. Relative to each other, Atzilut is "heaven" and Beriya - the first of the lower three worlds - is "earth."

This being the case, why did Moses have to address the earth at all, and conversely, why did Isaiah have to address heaven? They both did so in order to harmonize heaven and earth. Moses' task was to bring heaven down to earth, which he accomplished by transmitting the Torah to the Jewish people, giving them the guidelines how to make the world into G‑d's home. Isaiah's task as a prophet was to elevate the spiritual behavior and stature of the Jewish people, i.e., to bring life on earth back up to the standards of heaven.

When we have made life into "heaven on earth", resolving the dichotomy between heaven and earth, both heaven and earth testify how we have fulfilled our mission in life.

The practical lesson here is that those who are "closer to heaven than to earth," i.e., Torah scholars, must realize the value of simple observance of G‑d's commandments and performing good deeds. Those who are "closer to earth than to heaven," i.e., those who work for their living and therefore focus more on the simple observance of G‑d's commandments and the performance of good deeds, must make sure also to set aside time for Torah study.

Nonetheless, there are periods in a person's life when he must emphasize one or the other of these two aspects of his relationship with G‑d. During his formative years (or whenever he rises to a new level of Divine consciousness and is still a novice at this level) he should give precedence to Torah study. He should feel "closer to heaven than to earth." Once he has settled into spiritual stability, however, he should focus on disseminating this spirituality into the world through observing G‑d's commandments and performing good deeds. He should feel "grounded," i.e. "closer to earth than to heaven."

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, vol. 9, pp. 213-214 & vol. 2, pp. 415-417

Copyright 2001 Chabad of California / http://www.LAchumash.org