Ha’azinu: Heaven and earth

Give ear O heavens, let me speak; let the earth hear the words I utter! May my discourse come down as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like showers on young growth, like droplets on the grass. (Devarim 32:1).

You whose thoughts are flying
cloud-like, free of fetters,
dreaming of an ideal world,
gravity does not pull you back:
listen, for these words are meant for you.

And you whose thoughts are rooted
tree-like, firm and earth-bound,
despairing of a better world,
the wind does not sway you:
listen, for these words are meant for you.

May my speech drop down like dew,
like showers from the clouds
softly sprinkling trees and grass
falling on the thirsty earth,
sustaining all of life.


Sa’adiah Gaon* teaches that the “heavens” being addressed here are the angels while the “earth” refers to mortals. However, the Etz Hayim commentary of the JPS cites the Chatam Sofer who maintains that Moses is addressing the people, “Listen to me – you spiritual people whose thoughts are in heaven, and also you down-to-earth people whose concerns are more material. This message is meant for all of you.”

*Saʻadiah ben Yosef Gaon (882/892 – 942) was a prominent rabbi, Jewish philosopher, and exegete of the Gaonic period. He was born in Egypt and died in Baghdad.
The first important rabbinic figure to write extensively in Arabic, he is considered the founder of Judeo-Arabic literature. Known for his works on Hebrew linguistics, Halacha and Jewish philosophy and his philosophical work Emunot veDeot represents the first systematic attempt to integrate Jewish theology with components of Greek philosophy. He was also very active in opposition to Karaism, in defense of rabbinic Judaism.

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2 thoughts on “Ha’azinu: Heaven and earth

  1. Lovely.
    Another interpretation of Rav Sa’adiah Gaon’s reference to “people of the heavens” is that Moshe is addressing extraterrestrial beings. In any event, it is interesting (and I believe worthwhile) to contemplate the relevance of the Torah for extraterrestrial beings (if there be such) with the ability to choose their actions in accordance to the will of God. It requires reinterpreting all the historical stuff (stories of our planet) as lessons in the service of God.

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