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Straddling Heaven and Earth

Straddling Heaven and Earth


"Listen, O heavens, and I will speak; hear, O earth, the words of my mouth"—Deuteronomy 32:1.

This week's Torah reading begins with Moses' statement, "Listen, O heavens… and hear, O earth." A similar statement was made centuries later by the prophet Isaiah, who said, "Hear, O heavens; listen, O earth..." (Isaiah 1:2).

In addressing the heavens and the earth, both Moses and Isaiah employ two different expressions, but in reverse. To the heavens, Moses says "listen" and Isaiah says "hear"; and to the earth Moses says "hear" and Isaiah says "listen." The nuances of these words are lost in translation, but in Hebrew one says "listen" to those who are near, and "hear" to get the attention of those who are far. This means that Moses was closer to the heavens than earth, and that Isaiah was relatively closer to the earth than the heavens.

One might ask the question, why didn't Moses speak only to the heavens and Isaiah speak only to the earth? Why did they address themselves to both? The answer contains valuable a teaching for all of us.

There are times when we are in a more overtly spiritual mode, such as when we are praying or meditating. In those moments we feel closer to heaven than the earth. There are other times when we are engaged in more mundane affairs, and feel closer to earth. We are often prone to separating these two facets of our life-- ignoring one while immersed in the other. Thus, we learn from the language used by both Moses and Isaiah that whether we are involved in more spiritual pursuits or in more earthly ones, we must take note of both.

This may be one way of explaining what is meant in the Twelfth Step when it says that after "having had a spiritual awakening," we endeavor to "practice these principles in all our affairs." Our spiritual fitness, upon which our recovery depends, does not mean an escape from day-to-day living—but quite the opposite. It means that having gained a more spiritual view of life, we can now apply this attitude to how we handle ourselves when dealing with the world.

Rabbi Ben A. is the most famous anonymous rabbi. Using his pen name, Ben A. draws from his personal experience in recovery to incorporate unique chassidic philosophy into the practice of the 12 Steps.
The idea of this article is based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
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Anonymous Los Angeles, Ca October 2, 2011

straddling Heaven and Earth When do I do my step work? When do I most often feel spiritually charged? Early in the morning, when I work with my sponsor in my 12 step program or in shul. But, can I remember and practice these steps when I am upset that someone cut me off, or I feel discouraged by someone's comment or behavior? Practice in safe environments prepares me for all my affairs. Yes, thank G-d for meetings and readings and for help in doing the daily work of living.
Another point, is that we all need a Moshe or Yehoshua, a mentor who will praise us for our successes and help us when we are too lofty or too material. Thanks for this amazing forum of recovery. Shana Tova. Reply

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