The Torah portion Ha’azinu begins with Moshe saying:1 “Listen heaven and I will speak; hear earth the words of my mouth.” The Sifri notes2 that concerning heaven Moshe used an expression denoting closeness, ha’azinu , while regarding earth he used an expression indicating distance, v’sishma , for Moshe was “close to heaven and distant from earth.”

All of Torah serves to instruct each and every Jew. Since it tells us “listen heaven and hear earth,” it is evident that like Moshe, we are expected to become “close to heaven and distant from earth.” How are we to reach so rarefied a level?

Ha’azinu is often read on the Shabbos between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, a Shabbos known as “Shabbos Teshuvah ,” a “Shabbos of Repentance.”

The simple reason for the name is that this Shabbos falls within the Aseres Yimei Teshuvah , the “Ten Days of Penitence.” However, since every aspect of Torah is extremely precise, it is to be understood that the name “Shabbos Teshuvah ” serves to indicate that Shabbos enhances repentance, so that the Teshuvah of this Shabbos is superior to the Teshuvah of the other “Ten Days of Penitence.”

What is the connection between Shabbos and a superior form of Teshuvah ?

The Alter Rebbe explains3 that the Teshuvah of Aseres Yimei Teshuvah involves the soul’s essence, while Teshuvah during the rest of the year involves only the soul’s internal powers. Thus, the former period of Teshuvah is far superior to the latter.

These two times for Teshuvah also correspond to the two general levels of repentance, the lower level — whose purpose is to rectify man’s sins, and the higher level — which sees the soul returning and cleaving to its Source.4

In a general sense, these two forms of Teshuvah are mirrored in the difference between spiritual service during the week and spiritual service on Shabbos: During the week man is involved in mundane affairs, seeking to elevate the physical world to holiness. This corresponds to the lower level of repentance, in which the service is that of reuniting the soul’s internal powers with G‑dliness.

On Shabbos, however, mundane labor is prohibited, for the sanctity of the day is such that man transcends the physical; his labor on that day involves achieving ever-higher levels within the framework of holiness.5

Thus the Teshuvah of Shabbos is the loftier level of Teshuvah , whereby the soul is elevated and cleaves to its Source.6 The superiority inherent in the Teshuvah of “Shabbos Teshuvah ” as compared to repentance during the other days of the “Ten Days of Penitence” will be understood accordingly:

The seven days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur correspond to the seven weekdays of the entire past year; each day of the seven rectifies the misdeeds committed on that weekday in the year just past, with Sunday rectifying for all past Sundays, Monday for all Mondays, etc.

Therefore, although the entire period of the Aseres Yimei Teshuvah involves the superior form of Teshuvah , nevertheless, since the weekdays of the Aseres Yimei Teshuvah involve atonement for the weekdays of the past year, it follows that the weekday Teshuvah is not the loftiest form.

Shabbos, however, is the Teshuvah for past Shabbasos, which themselves are inherently superior in service and Teshuvah. It therefore follows that the Teshuvah of Shabbos Teshuvah is the loftiest of all the Aseres Yimei Teshuvah.

It is the attainment of this level on Shabbos Teshuvah that enables each and every Jew to be like Moshe — “close to heaven and distant from earth.”

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XIV, pp. 143-147.