Parshas Haazinu-Likkutei Torah-Heaven and earth in Avodas Hashem

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Parshas Haazinu


Haazinu Hashamayim…”

[Likkutei Torah p. 64a]

Parshas Haazinu, is known as the “song of testimony”; the song that carries with it the testimony of the Jewish people’s observance of G-d’s commandments and the effects of the lack of this observance. There is an ancient tradition of memorizing the Song of Haazinu.[1] The verse[2] states, “And now you shall write this song [of Haazinu[3]], and you shall teach it to Bnei Yisrael; place it in their mouths [memorize it[4]].” From here, we learn that the Jewish people in the times of Moshe were commanded to learn this song by heart.[5] This tradition of memorizing Parshas Haazinu has continued throughout the generations, as written by Gedolei Yisrael.[6] What is so unique about this Parsha, that of all the Parshiyos we find that specifically this Parsha is to be committed to memory? The answer is that this Parsha contains hidden messages intended for each Jew’s service of Hashem. In this Mamar, the Alter Rebbe defines the message conveyed by Moshe to the Jewish people in the opening verses of the song. Encrypted within this verse is a wealth of background behind the power of Torah and Mitzvos and how this power is activated; the relationship between the animal and G-dly souls, and how they all correlate to bring about the revelation of G-dliness in this world below. This message is given by Moshe to all types of Jews, including both the “Heaven Jew” and the “Earth Jew”, the Jew that is occupied solely with Torah learning and the Jew that works hard to provide a living for his family. Both Jews can and must exert themselves in their service of G-d, as explained in this Mamar.


Explorations of the Mamar

  1. What message is conveyed in the opening verse of the song of Haazinu?
  2. Why is the Torah compared to rain and dew?
  3. How can one learn Torah in a way that it affects his soul?
  4. Which soul is the main focus and purpose of our service of Hashem in this world – the animal soul or the G-dly soul?


The Question:

The first verse of the song of Haazinu begins with the words, “Listen, the heavens and I will speak. Let the earth hear the words of my mouth.” The verses of the song of Haazinu contain different explanations and meanings. What is the hidden message behind the opening verse? The Torah is compared to rain, as the verse states: “When the rain and snow falls from the Heavens… so will be the words that come out of my mouth.” The Torah is also compared to dew, as the Sages state: “The dew of Torah”. Both dew and rain come from the heavens, and hence the opening verse above, “Listen the heavens,” refers to the Torah. The difference between rain and dew is that dew derives directly from the heavens, while rain derives from the water particles on earth that have been elevated to the heavens and form clouds of rain. What does the term “earth” refer to in the verse? It refers to the Mitzvos, as the Mitzvos are performed with the objects of the earth. It remains, however, to be understood, what particular message the verse conveys in regards to Torah and Mitzvos.


The two types of souls-Baalei Torah and Baalei Eisek:

There exist two types of souls, one who is inclined towards Torah learning, called the Baal Torah, and one who is inclined towards business, called a Baal Eisek. The Baal Torah souls spend their entire time in Torah learning, while the Baal Eisek souls are involved in Mitzvos and Gemilus Chassadim, with only a minute portion of their time dedicated to Torah learning. The world stands on the service of these two types of souls. As the Mishneh states, the world has three pillars, Torah, Avoda, and Gemilus Chassadim. The pillar of Avoda, which refers to Karbanos, is no longer applicable, and hence there only remain the pillar of Torah and Gemilus Chassadim on which the world stands. The Baalei Torah are called Shamayim/Heaven, as the Torah comes from Heaven, while the Baalei Eisek are called Aretz/earth because they deal with the earthly Mitzvos.


What is higher: Heaven or Earth-Torah or Mitzvos?

In some verses, it states that Heaven was created before Earth, while in other verses it states that Earth was created before Heaven. The explanation is that these verses refer not to the chronological order of Creation but to the virtues of Heaven and Earth, as in certain aspects Heaven is greater than Earth and in other aspects Earth is greater than Heaven. The same applies regarding the relationship of Torah and Mitzvos. In certain aspects, Torah is greater than Mitzvos, while in other aspects Mitzvos are greater than Torah. Thus, the two types of souls, the Baal Eisek and Baal Torah, complement each other, and each one needs the advantages and virtues of the other to act as one of the two pillars of the world. In the first verse of Haazinu, Moshe Rabbeinu gives directives to the two types of souls and their divine service.


Rain and plant Growth-How to absorb Torah into one’s soul:

Moshe, speaking to both types of souls, encrypted a deep message within his statement of “Yaarof Kamatar Likchi/May my words drip like rain.” In this statement, Moshe was conveying to the Torah learners that in order for their Torah learning to be properly absorbed within their souls they need to give it a feature of rain. Rain moistens the earth, giving it the potential to then grow its produce. The main growth of a plant derives from the spiritual power of growth found in the earth, and this spiritual growth power is stimulated by the seed, plowing, and the rain. The rain softens the plowed earth and allows for the seed to be planted and corrode into the earth and begin the process called germination. The seed requires wet and loose earth in order to corrode and germinate. The plant does not grow as a result of the corroded seed, but rather as the result of the power of growth found in the earth. The seed that has corroded simply arouses the specific form of power of growth found within the earth that is needed for the plant of that seed’s specimen to grow. These steps associated in facilitating the growth of a plant are similarly found in one’s service of Hashem through learning Torah. Torah learning is compared to rain; the humility and nullification one has while learning represents the loose earth that has been plowed; the revelation of one’s soul represents the growth that is brought into effect by the Torah learning. In order for Torah learning to have a proper effect on one’s soul, one needs to learn Torah in a state of fear of Heaven and nullification of one’s ego. The Torah cannot penetrate a haughty soul, just as rain cannot nurture the earth if it is hard and not plowed. On the other hand, we also learn from this that one’s main spiritual growth derives not from the actual Torah, which is the rain, but from one’s actual soul, which is the power of growth found in the earth. The Torah simply arouses and reveals the powers of the soul. Why, however, does the soul contain a greater advantage than the Torah learning itself, and which soul is being referred to in this statement: the G-dly soul or the animal soul? Also, there is a piece missing in the above comparison of Torah learning to the rain and plant growing process. Which part of the Torah learning process refers to the seed?     


The animal soul recites Elokaiy Neshama:

One of the most profound questions of philosophy is regarding who I am. When I think or speak, who is speaking and thinking? We are made up of two souls: the animal soul and the G-dly soul. Which soul is the one that dominates the body and speaks on behalf of the other? A proof can be brought from the morning prayer of Elokaiy Neshama, in which we say, “My G-d, the soul that you have given me is pure.” The pure soul referred to here is the G-dly soul, which leaves us to conclude that it is the animal soul of the person that is verbalizing this statement that talks about the G-dly soul. In this statement, the animal soul says: “the soul that you have given in me…and have blown into me,” as Hashem invested the G-dly soul into the animal soul.


The G-dly soul is seeded into the animal soul, which is the earth:

The animal soul is similar to earth that is planted with a seed. The seed that is planted within the animal soul is the G-dly soul, which contains a spark of G-d. Just as the physical seed that is planted in the earth awakens the power of growth that is innately found within the earth, similarly the seed of the G-dly soul awakens the great spiritual powers found within the animal soul, and from it come the spiritual accomplishments of the person. Although the animal soul is coarse and loathsome, specifically this soul contains within it the power of growth, to sprout an abundance of seed similar to the seed that was planted in it.


The purpose of Mitzvos is for the animal soul:

It is due to the above that most of the Mitzvos relate to the objects of the physical world, as they are meant to be fulfilled by the animal soul, and it is for this purpose that they were given. Only a minority of the Mitzvos, such as faith and knowledge of Hashem, were intended solely for the G-dly soul, and not for the animal soul. Furthermore, even these Mitzvos have a relationship with the animal soul, as they were only given to the G-dly soul after it became invested in the animal soul. Prior to the G-dly soul’s descent into the body, it had no need to be commanded these Mitzvos, as it automatically performed them without any choice. Only after the G-dly soul is invested in the animal soul does it now have the ability to fulfill these commandments, and overcome the animal soul’s concealments. Furthermore, the purpose of this is in order to give the animal soul merit and have these Mitzvos fulfilled while it is invested within the body. All the other Mitzvos, however, are solely related to the animal soul, and can only be fulfilled by it. Even the Mitzvos of love and fear of Hashem need the physical body to be involved in its performance, as these feelings are found in the heart and are affected by the food one eats and the blood that is found in the heart that is created from these foods. Likewise, the Mitzvah of Torah study can only be fulfilled with the verbalization of the words of Torah, which entails the use of one’s organs of speech. The reason why the Mitzvos were all given in physical form is because the Mitzvos themselves are also called “seed”, and a seed can only be planted in the ground, which relates to the animal soul, which contains the power of spiritual growth.


The source behind the animal soul’s inner power:

The above teaching leaves one to wonder how the animal soul can contain advantages even over the G-dly soul, to the point that the entire Torah and Mitzvos relate to it. The reason for this is because in its root and source, the animal soul comes from a higher level than the G-dly soul, and it is due to this root that it contains the power of growth that the G-dly soul does not have. The animal soul derives from the level of Pnei Shur/face of the ox that is on the Merkava/Divine chariot, which itself comes from the level of Tohu. The advantage of the animal soul over the G-dly soul can be readily seen in the difference between humans and animals, as although humans are incomparably more superior than animals, animals contain greater strength than humans.          


The Mitzvos are only effective when performed by a Jewish soul:

Although the purpose of the Mitzvos is for them to be performed by the animal soul, nevertheless this purpose is only fulfilled when the Mitzvos are performed by a Jew. In order for the Mitzvos to have an effect and bring a revelation of G-dliness above into the object being used, it must be performed by a Jew who contains an animal soul that garbs a G-dly soul. If a gentile performs a Mitzvah, he has not done a Mitzvah at all, and it remains completely ineffective. This is similar to a seed that can only germinate when placed into the earth. Just as the G-dly soul is compared to a seed that is planted in the animal soul, similarly the Mitzvos are compared to a seed. A seed does not have any taste or smell prior to being planted, and only when it is planted in the earth are its qualities of smell and taste created through it arousing the power of growth found in the earth. The same applies regarding the Mitzvos; prior to their performance, the objects of the Mitzvah lack spiritual taste and smell, and are considered mundane. If one leaves his Tallis and Tefillin on the shelf, they will be completely ineffective. It is only after the Mitzvos are performed by the Jew that they draw down the Or Ein Sof, as only the Jew has the power of growth that can activate the Mitzvos. Nonetheless, this power of growth is mainly found in the Jew’s animal soul, as stated above.     


The G-dly soul arouses the love of the animal soul, which in turn makes the Mitzvos effective:

A number of the matters discussed above need further clarification. Both the G-dly soul and the Mitzvos have been called the seed that is planted in the animal soul, which is the earth, and the Torah waters the earth and allows the seed to sprout and arouse the power of growth in the G-dly soul. Why does the animal soul need two types of seeds, both the G-dly soul and the Mitzvos, and what practically is the advantage that the animal soul has due to its higher root, which makes it the center of focus in all of one’s Avodas Hashem? The explanation is as follows: The animal soul, due to its higher root, contains an ability to love G-d with a passion much stronger than any passion known to the G-dly soul. This is the power of growth contained within the animal soul, which is the earth, and is not contained in the seed, which is the G-dly soul. On the other hand, it is specifically the G-dly soul, which is the seed, that has the ability to arouse this lofty love and power of growth contained within the animal soul. This is accomplished through the G-dly soul’s contemplation of the greatness of Hashem. This contemplation arouses the passion of the animal soul for Hashem, being that the G-dly soul is invested within the animal soul, and all its contemplations are performed with the assistance of the animal soul. It is this passionate love that is aroused in the animal soul that then has the ability to cause the Mitzvos that it performs to be effective and draw down the Or Ein Sof. Thus, while the G-dly soul is the seed that arouses the love power of the animal soul, the Mitzvos are the seed that, when planted in this animal soul, sprouts forth the revelations of G-dliness.  


The two types of Torah learning-rain and dew:

Earlier, it was explained that Torah learning is the rain that prepares the plowed soil for planting. What exactly is the effect of this rain on the soil, the effect of the Torah on the animal soul, which is the earth? The purpose of the rain is to soften the plowed earth and then allow the seed to arouse the earth’s power of growth. Similarly, Torah learning is there to draw Bittul, nullification, to the person, as in addition to the nullification that one must bring on his own to his soul, which represents the plowing, he must also draw nullification from above through learning Torah. In truth, however, there are two aspects found in Torah learning. One is comparable to rain, and the second is comparable to dew. Rain is derived from the moisture of the sea that ascends to the heavens. The rain aspect of Torah is the aspect that is there to bring Bittul to the soul and then allow it to sprout and bring forth produce. This aspect is mainly focused on the person below and his Avoda to elevate the animal soul and Mitzvos. The Tal/dew aspect of the Torah, however, is the aspect of Torah that serves a purpose of its own, not to arouse anything within the soul, but to unite the person with Hashem, who learns Torah simultaneously with the person learning below. It draws the Torah of Hashem, as it exists in Heaven, to the Torah that he is currently learning. The Torah of Hashem is revealed within his soul, and even though he does not feel it, it is felt by his soul. This is similar to the dew that conspicuously falls from the heavens and lands on the earth.  


The message Hashem gives to both souls:

Based on all the above, we can now understand the message given from Moshe to both Jewish souls, the learner/Baal Torah and the Mitzvah doer/Baal Eisek. Moshe was relating to both types of souls, as they both can sprout forth salvation and draw down the Or Ein Sof through Torah and Mitzvos. The Baal Torah draws down the G-dliness through his Torah learning, as explained above regarding the power of dew, while the Baal Eisek draws the G-dliness through the Mitzvos, which is considered the seed. Nevertheless, both the Baal Torah and Baal Eisek must have the first level of Torah, which is the rain, in order that their Torah and Mitzvos will be effective, as without the Bittul given to the soul through Torah, one cannot sprout the seed of the Mitzvos or arouse the power of the animal soul.


Lessons of the Mamar

  • Some people tend to separate between occupational Torah learners and the working man, thinking that only the Torah scholar is truly serving G-d as He intended. In truth, however, Hashem Himself made this separation of souls, and Hashem Himself gave both types of souls the tools for becoming close to Him. It is not an embarrassment, or a lower social level, to be a hardworking Torah Jew, and Hashem did not create all Jews to be occupational Torah learners.
  • Some people tend to think that once they leave Yeshiva and enter the working world, they are no longer relevant to any true service of G-d, and their main focus is to survive, being as religious as possible. The message of Haazinu is that also the working Jew is on a mission of Hashem to draw G-dliness down to the world, as is the Torah learner, but it is just that he has different tools to perform his mission. There is therefore no excuse for a working Jew to feel that he is not required to set times for learning Torah and be exemplary in Mitzvah performance.
  • The Rebbe Rayatz stated:[7] “I heard from Gedolim that every Jew is required to know the song of Haazinu by heart. If the businessmen only knew of the great blessing that the recital of Haazinu from memory can bring to their business, they would be a lot more careful in this.” Learn this song by heart and internalize the message given by the opening verses of this song, as discussed in the Mamar.


[1] This tradition is not recorded in any classical sources of previous times [other than in the verse mentioned above and the Sichos below, which record it in the name of the Maharal and the Maggid of Mezritch] and was seemingly an oral tradition. Many schools have a tradition of learning it by heart. Vetzrauch Iyun Gadol as to why the Poskim or Mefarshim on the verse, ibid, make no mention of this tradition for the generations after. See footnotes below.

[2] Vayeilech 31/19

[3] Rashi ibid.

[4] Even Ezra ibid; Rasag ibid.

[5] Seemingly, however, this commandment only applies to that generation, and hence we do not find that every Jew is taught Haazinu by heart, and it is simply viewed as a good Segula. Furthermore, perhaps one can say that the commandment was only for Moshe to teach it to them until they memorized it, and it was not a commandment for the Jewish people even in that generation to learn it, and certainly not in later generations, although it is still a Segula still remains. This requires further study.

[6] The Maharal of Prague stated that one is to recite the Parsha of Haazinu by heart each day, and that doing so brings success and long life. [Sefer Hazichronos 1/29] The Baal Shem Tov directed Rav Chaim Rappaport of Lvov to recite the song of Haazinu by heart during his famous journey. [Sefer Hazichronos 1/139 English edition] The Maggid of Mezritch stated that the song of Haazinu is to be memorized [by the masses]. [Sefer Hasichos 1944 p. 136-138; Sefer Hatoldos Hamaharash [of Rebbe] p. 74] The learning of the song of Haazinu – each person is required to know it by heart and doing so brings great blessing. The Rebbe Rayatz stated, “I heard from Gedolim that every Jew is required to know the song of Haazinu by heart. If the businessmen only knew of the great blessing that the recital of Haazinu from memory can bring to their business, they would be a lot more careful in this.” [Sefer Hasichos 1941 p. 46, Hebrew edition]

[7] Sefer Hasichos 1941 p. 46 Hebrew edition

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