Weekly Articles

The Witnesses
September 24th, 2020
The Witnesses

Dear Friends, 

This Parsha contains a song which Moshe Rabbeinu taught to the Children of Israel. 

This song is cosmic in magnitude, presenting the panorama of the history of Israel, from our days as slaves to Paro, through our epic Desert March, our glorious settlement in the Land of Israel, our decline, our tragedy, our agonizing exile and our assured Redemption in the End of Days. 

“This song is great, for it has within it the present … the past and … future; it has within it [what transpires] in This World and in the World to Come…. All its words until now have been fulfilled .... How much more so [should we believe and wholeheartedly expect [the fulfillment of] the words of G-d [concerning the future].” (Ramban on Dvarim/Deuteronomy 32:41ff) 

The Ramban goes on to speak about our Redemption: “Now, there is no stipulation in this song [to indicate that the deliverance is dependent] upon [Israel’s] repentance or service [of G-d]. Rather, it is purely a testimonial document that we will commit evil deeds to the utmost and that He – may He be blessed – will deal with us with wrathful punishments, but He will not cause our memory to cease and he will [ultimately] …. grant atonement for our sins for His Name’s sake. This being so, this song serves as an explicit assurance of the future redemption.” (ibid)

There is a big question: why does Moshe Rabbeinu appeal to Heaven and Earth as witnesses? What do they have to do with us or our future? And how can Heaven and Earth function as witnesses in any case? 

Rashi answers. 

“Moses said: I am flesh and blood. Tomorrow I will be dead. If Israel were to say, ‘We did not accept the covenant upon ourselves,’ who could come and contradict them? This is why he called as witnesses … the heavens and the earth, witnesses who last forever. 

“And furthermore, if [Israel] will be meritorious, the witnesses will come and give [Israel’s] reward, as it is stated, ‘The vine will yield its fruit and the earth will yield its produce and the heavens will give their dew.’ And if [Israel] will be found guilty, the hand of the witnesses will be the first against them, as it says, ‘He will restrain the heavens and there will no rain and the ground will not yield its produce …..’” (Rashi on Dvarim 32:1)

Now I am going to take a bit of a liberty and apply this passage not only to the Nation of Israel but to the entire world. I will tell you why: G-d made a covenant with the entire world. The Torah assigns seven mitzvos to “Bnai Noach,” all the children of Noah. These mitzvos are binding upon every descendant of Noah, in other words, every person in the entire world. 

As a result of our long Exile, the Torah has become known to the entire world and even adopted as if it were “their own” by other nations. As a result, there are very few people in the world, if any, who can claim ignorance of this Book. So I am going to say that the Heavens and the Earth are witnesses to the obligation of every person in the world to follow the Torah laws which apply to him or her, whether Jew or non-Jew. 

And now, as the year 5781 begins, the entire world sees that the Heavens and the Earth are testifying against us! All mankind is trembling because an invisible agent has entered and infected the entire world! Lightning comes from the heavens and kindles fires in areas which were once sought-after like gardens of paradise. Huge ocean storms inundate large land masses. Heaven and Earth are coming to testify against us! 

Hashem Melech … Hashem is King! 

“Hashem Echad ushmo echad … G-d is One and His Name is One!”

The Song says, “When I call out the Name of Hashem, ascribe greatness to our G-d. The Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are justice; a G-d, faithful, without iniquity…. Corruption is not His, the blemish is His Children’s, a crooked and twisted generation.” (Dvarim 32:3-5)

As we enter the Holy Day of Yom Kippur this Sunday evening, let us remember that we will survive in this world only if we submit ourselves to the Rule of the King of Kings. 

“You reduce man to pulp and You say, ‘Repent, Oh sons of man. For even a thousand years in Your eyes are but a bygone yesterday, like a watch in the night. You flood them away … For we are consumed by Your fury and we are confounded by Your wrath. You have set our iniquities before You, our immaturity before the light of Your countenance…. Who knows the power of Your fury? … Teach us to count our days, then we shall acquire a heart of wisdom.” (Tehillim/Psalm 90)

I believe this is the perspective we should have at this time in history as we prepare ourselves for judgment. As we contemplate the new world that is unfolding before our eyes, let us remember Moshe’s parting words: “Thus Israel shall dwell securely, solitary, in the likeness of Yaakov, in a land of grain and wine …. Fortunate are you, Oh Israel. Who is like you, a people delivered by Hashem, the Shield of your help.” (Dvarim 33:28ff)

Gmar chassima tova … may we all be sealed in the Book of Life!



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