This week's parsha
Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
Why not gather ordinary people as witnesses -- a somewhat more normal method than using such seemingly abstract witnesses?
As the commenter Rashi explains, the heavens and earth endure generation after generation. Rather than using human witnesses who will eventually pass on and the testimony will be lost, the idea is to have an eternal testament.
We see this in reality. Even many tens of generations from Sinai, not that much has changed. We still follow the same Torah, the same laws, traditions and customs, preserving this eternal bond and passing it on intact to the next generation. It is all the more impressive since, as someone remarked recently, G-d spoke to the Jewish people thousands of years ago at Mount Sinai, and He hasn't spoken to them collectively since, yet we still do what He told them to then!
These two qualities are expressed by the names of the double Torah portion which is read this Shabbat, the Shabbat before the New Year, Rosh Hashanah. The first Torah portion is called Nitzavim, which means in Hebrew "standing firm." In its opening words, Moses tells the Jewish people "you are all standing firm here today." The second Torah portion is called Vayelech, which means "he went," referring to Moses: "Moses went and said these words to the Jewish people."
The Bigger Picture
There are two opinions in the teachings of our Sages concerning this commandment. The Midrash Sifri maintains that every individual was required to bring the first fruits offering as soon as he entered the Land of Israel and his land began to yield fruit.