Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Nitzavim
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Berel Wein

The Torah reading for this week forms a fitting conclusion to the year that is now about to depart from us. At the end of his long life and decades of service to the Jewish people, Moshe renews the covenant between God and the people of Israel. He makes clear to the new generation of Jews standing before him, a generation that no longer was part of the experience of Egypt nor necessarily was present at the moment of revelation at Sinai, that the original covenant between God and the Jewish people remains in force and will continue to do so throughout future Jewish history. The covenant cannot be repealed, altered or ignored. It is the basis for all Jewish life and it is the leitmotif of all of Jewish history. Moshe admits that there will be events and occurrences in the story of the Jewish people that are cruel, inexplicable and irrational. As he phrases it there will be many "hidden, mysterious" events that the Jewish people will have to experience. He offers no easy explanation to those events except to say that somehow they are related to the attempts of sections of the Jewish people to annul the covenant and its resultant consequences. The "hidden" part of the covenant belongs to God. The revealed part of the covenant – the obligations of Torah commandments and Jewish life – belong to the Jewish people and are relevant in all of their generations and locales. The Jewish people and the Jewish State will always be judged through its relationship to this eternal covenant.

The existence of the covenant has caused us much pain and angst throughout the centuries. The other nations of the world harbor resentment against us because of the uniqueness of our relationship to the Creator of all as exemplified by this covenant. Many Jewish thinkers have attributed anti-Semitism in all of its virulent and even more benign forms to a form of jealousy over the existence of God’s covenant with the Jewish people. Nevertheless, the covenant has remained the rock of Jewish self-worth over all of the ages. The knowledge of the existence of the covenant alone has allowed the stubbornness of the Jewish people to be resolute and to maintain our faith and lifestyle even though we are a very small minority in a world of many billions of others. The Torah itself is the very essence of the covenant. It details its terms and conditions and its study helps formulate the covenantal life that Jews are expected to live. And that is why the Torah demands that we study and be aware of this covenant morning and night, traveling and at home, in all times and places. There were and unfortunately still are those amongst us who wish to discard the covenant and its obligations and merely to blend in with the general society that surrounds us. The Lord, so to speak, has many times warned us that He would not allow this to occur. All of Jewish history teaches us regarding the strength and eternity of this great covenant. In the great and good year that is now dawning upon us we should all resolutely renew the covenant in our hearts, minds and actions and be blessed therefore within a year of health, success and serenity.
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