Everybody was busy preparing for Sukkos. Mindy and Mashi were moving the table and chairs into their sukkah. Mendy and Mordechai were helping their father put on the schach. Next door, the Kleins were hammering and drilling their sukkah boards.
"Look, Mindy," said Mashi. "If we move the table a bit to the left, we could fit another chair in that corner."
Mashi nodded. Above the clamor of banging chairs, the pounding of hammers, and the shrill sound of drills, Mendy called out from on top of the ladder, "We need another branch up here, Mordechai." No response.
"Hey Mordechai, can you hear me? I said we need another branch here."
Mordechai could hardly hear Mendy - he was too far away. But Mashi could easily listen to Mindy - she was standing close to her.
We use the word "listen," when we speak with someone who is close. Our conversations with a listener are personal and private. We use "hearing" when we speak to someone further away. It is less personal. Words which are spoken loud enough for people all around to hear do not have the same feeling of closeness as a private conversation.
Ha'azinu gives an example of both "listening" and "hearing." Moshe asks the heaven and earth to serve as witnesses, saying: Ha'azinu hashamayim ... V'sishma ha'aretz: "Listen, O heavens..., and let the earth hear."
Many generations later, the prophet Yeshayahu also called upon the heavens and the earth to serve as witnesses. Yeshayahu says: Shimu shomayim veha'azini eretz - "Hear O Heavens, and listen, O earth."
What is the difference between the words of Moshe Rabbeinu and those of Yeshayahu?
Moshe calls upon the heavens to listen and earth to hear, while Yeshayahu asks the earth to listen and heavens to hear. Remember that listening means that the two speakers are close to each other. Our Rabbis explain that Moshe was on a very high level - closer to the heavens than to the earth. When he spoke to the heavens, he said listen, and when he spoke to the earth, he said hear.
Yeshayahu was on a lower level. When he spoke to the heavens from far below, he said hear, and when he spoke to the earth, he said listen.
Parshas Ha'azinu is always read on the Shabbos before or after Yom Kippur. At this time we can "seek HaShem when He is near, call upon Him when He is close." During these days, every Jew is - like Moshe Rabbeinu - close to HaShem and within listening distance of Him. This assures us that He will listen to our prayers and will grant us a year of blessing and happiness.