Moses' adjuration to the Jews to observe the convenant
I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed;
But Heaven and earth are inanimate. They can't be witnesses. Hence
Rashi interprets this symbolically. Rashi's suggestion is simple:
Heaven and earth follow the inanimate laws that govern them and as a consequence
all is well with them. If only we humans could act similarly.
Rashi's first explanation poetically sees the heaven and earth as two witnesses
who punish the accused if convicted (The heavens abstain from rain and the earth
from produce). However heaven and earth have no cogitive ability or free will
and hence cannot really act as witnesses. Rashi's second explanation correctly
sees them as symbolic affirmations adjuring humans to follow their
inanimate counterparts. We have therefore concentrated on Rashi's 2nd explanation.
We close this year's Weekly Rashi
series with a gem of a story from the founder of Chasiduth. The founder
of Chasiduth, the Ba'al Shem Tov, that is, the Person with a Good name, as he is affectionately known, was, in
his youth, as a sexton, one day, sweeping the synagogue floors. All of a sudden he
burst into tears: This lowly broom has fulfilled its maximum potential in existence
and has merited to clean synagogue floors, but I, a human created in the image of the
Supreme being, have not fulfilled my maximum potential. Of course, the Ba'al Shem Tov
was simply echoing the above Rashi that sees Heaven and Earth as inanimate paradigms
fulfilling the will of their Creator and contrasting it with human behavior.