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    Heavens & earth – Ha’azinu

    These days speakers tend to begin, “Ladies and Gentlemen”. In Hebrew the order is reversed for some reason and the men are put first, but there is no particular logic in either formula.

    Is there, then, a logic in the way Moses begins the speech which takes up today’s parashah, “Give ear, O Heavens; listen, O earth” (Deut. 32:1)?

    There is an answer, but first let us investigate why he mentions heaven and earth at all. The Sifrei, followed by Rashi, says it is because they are eternal. What Moses has to say is not for any one moment in history but for ever, not for any one part of the Creation but all of it.

    Why does heaven come first? Because that is how the whole of the Torah begins: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” (Gen. 1:1).

    The Kotzker Rebbe approached the verse rather differently, seeing “heaven” and “earth” more as adverbs than as nouns.

    “Give ear” was addressed to Israel but it was no mere semi-listening which they were asked for. They were told, “Give ear in a heavenly, superior fashion”.

    Taking the Rebbe’s idea further, we could say that “Listen, O earth” indicates, “Listen solidly”, since the characteristic of the earth is that it has substance.

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