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As Heaven Is My Witness

R Pesach Siegel

Parshat Haazinu

Sep 4, 2013

As Heaven Is My Witness

Parshas Ha’azinu 5774

Moshe Rabeinu addresses the heaven and the earth. He calls upon them to bear witness. He says to them, “Ha’azinu hashamayim v’adabera visishma ha’aretz imrei fi.”- Listen heaven and I will speak and the earth will hear the words of my mouth.

Why did Moshe call upon them to testify? Rashi provides two explanations.

Moshe said,” I am but flesh and blood. Tomorrow I shall die. If Israel claims that they never accepted the covenant, who will come and contradict them? Therefore he made the heaven and the earth bear witness. They exist forever.”

In addition, Rashi comments, there is a practical advantage to calling upon the heaven and earth to bear testimony.  If the actions of Israel are filled with merit, the witnesses themselves will be the bearers of their reward. The grapevine will give of its fruits. If by their actions they are worthy of being punished, they will be punished by the hands of the witnesses themselves. The heaven will hold back its waters.

What follows is the actual testimony. The testimony is referred to as a shira – a song.


According to the second explanation of Rashi, the purpose of the testimony is to grant reward and to render punishment. Thus, there is as practical outcome for the testimony of the heaven and earth.

In his first explanation, Rashi states that the role of the heaven and earth is to bear testimony.

How do inanimate entities, such as heaven and earth, bear testimony?

Rashi further states that Moshe Rabeinu served as proof of the covenant between Klal Yisroel and Hashem. After his passing, the heaven and earth took on Moshe Rabeinu’s role.

In what way do they function as Moshe Rabeinu’s substitute?

Why is this testimony sung in the form of a shira?


During the pesukei dizimrah portion of the Shabbos morning davening, we recite what is called Hallel Hagadol. We praise Hashem for his boundless kindness and we recite the phrase, “Ki li’olam chasdo”, twenty six times.

In the medrash, Rabi Yehoshua ben Levi explains, the twenty six verses are expressions of gratitude. The Torah was given in the twenty sixth generation from the time of creation. Prior to the giving of the Torah, the world had veritably no purpose. An entity with no purpose has no right to exist. Were it not for the chessed of Hashem, the world would have reverted back to nothingness. Hashem sustained the world with His kindness.

With Kabbalas HaTorah, this chessed came to an end. A bond was forged between the Bnei Yisroel and the fabric of creation. To the extent that they are keepers of the bond, the world has continuance. It is the bris between the Bnei Yisroel and the Torah that keeps the fabric of creation together. Rav Chaim of Volozhin writes that if the world would be totally devoid of divrei Torah for a solitary moment, it would revert back to tohu and vohu.

The Kli Yakar tells us that when Moshe Rabeinu expressed the words, Ha’azinu hashamayim va’adabera visishma ha’aretz imrei fi, he was willing them to cease the natural way that they sustain the world. The laws of nature, that normally cloak Hashem’s direct role in creation, were suspended.

One would expect that when the sun in the heaven ceased it role in creation, pandemonium would be the result. Yet, all remained well.  Although the world has the appearance of being sustained by the forces of nature, this is in appearance alone.

It is the bond between the Bnei Yisroel and the Torah that gives the world its purpose and ability to exist.


During the lifetime of Moshe Rabeinu, no further evidence was needed to prove the bond between this world and the spiritual realm that sustains it. He was an Ish Elokim. When Moshe Rabeinu ascended Har Sinai for forty days, he took with him no physical sustenance. He was nourished by the very Torah that he went there to receive.

The Torah that gives life to the world was channeled to the world through Moshe Rabeinu. The Torah of Moshe Rabeinu sustained the entire world. At the time of his passing a new “world order” came into being.

Instead of Moshe Rabeinu being the link bridging the two worlds, this role would pass on to the Jewish people. By their connection to Toras Moshe, the Bnei Yisroel would instill the world with the purpose that it was created for.

Thus, the mere existence of the heaven and earth attests to the bond between the Bnei Yisroel and the Torah. Were no such bond to exist, that would spell an end to the shamayim and aretz. They would revert to tohu vavohu.

The sealing of this bond marked the end to the process of creation. Until this moment, all was hanging in the balance, whether to to turn back into a state of formlessness or to be armed to go forward toward the ultimate destiny.

Shira is much more than a song. It is the joyous spontaneous expression of the soul when G-d’s master plan comes full circle.

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