We’ve talked many times about how ספר דברים is Moshe’s own words, presented as תורה שבעל פה and afterwards incorporated into תורה שבכתב.
But פרשת האזינו is different, because it is not Moshe’s תורה שבעל פה, but his נבואה. The nature of נבואה is that ה׳ tells the נביא to relate a message, but (in most opinions; the Malbim would differ) the נביא determines how to say it.
In a very real sense, האזינו is the only place in the Torah where we hear Moshe’s own voice as a poet. (As an aside, it’s a unique voice. Like many paytanim, he uses words in unusual ways. For instance, he likes nouning verbs: (דברים לב:כ) בָּנִים לֹא אֵמֻן בָּם; (דברים לב:לה) לִי נָקָם וְשִׁלֵּם).
And חז״ל point out that this is in fact Moshe’s words, by contrasting it to Isaiah:
Moshe at this point in his life is closer to heaven than earth, and he speaks as though the heavens are close by. The Ohr HaChaim points out that the words don’t necessarily imply this:
And then he adds an incredibly important point about interpreting the Torah:
So he feels free to disagree with חז״ל, and offer his own understanding:
But why does Moshe talk to the heavens and the earth? He’s really talking to בני ישראל but he’s called them in as witnesses:
Ibn Ezra agrees with the קיימים לעולם idea, and then adds an important fact in understanding the metaphors of the Torah: דברה תורה כלשון בני אדם, and we anthropomorphize everything:
In this way of looking at it, the heavens and the earth are not so much witnesses as testimonial, a sort of monument, like the rainbow and ברית מי נח. The problem with this sort of monument is that there is no plaque, no direct association. It only works if you already remember Moshe’s words. The Kli Yakar has a different גרסא:
So he connects the “testimony” of the heavens and the earth to the very fact of creation: if the universe still exists, then Israel must still be keeping the Torah:
And the Ohr HaChaim brings it back to his question of the meaning of האזינו: does it imply distance or closeness? The answer is, as it always is in this kind of question, yes. As the Ibn Ezra pointed out, humanity is poised between heaven and earth. The link that ties them all together is the Torah:
שירת האזינו is not about Torah. It is about reward and punishment, and gratitude to ה׳. But it is Moshe’s נבואה, and his choice of language hints at the central theme and purpose of his life: מתן תורה.