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Ah! The covenant once more. The basis of the relationship between the Jewish people and their Creator is the covenant that exists between them. The covenant is central to the story of the Jewish people. Our father Avraham entered into and created the terms of this eternal covenant. The covenant was embodied in his flesh itself and sanctified by the sense of sacrifice that the historical narrative of Avraham and Yitzchak reinforced.

Yaakov received the covenant from his father – after contests with Eisav and Lavan and bequeathed it to his sons, the twelve tribes of Israel. His family took the covenant with them down to Egypt and it was miraculously preserved throughout centuries of slavery. Yosef had promised them redemption and belief in the existence and efficacy of the covenant. And that promise of redemption for all ages and future conditions was attached to the overriding theme of the covenant.
To this historical and faith narrative was added the holy spirituality and Divine laws of the Torah granted at Mount Sinai. This combination of holiness, the discipline of behavior, the historical narrative of tradition and family, all combined to form the foundation of the covenant.
This has remained the great backbone of Jewish survival during our long and painful exile and dispersion. It is this covenant that unites Jews the world over as a family, not only as a faith and not only as a nationality.
The continuity and presence of this covenant – alive and well as it assuredly is in our time now – was and is the leitmotif of the rhythms of Jewish life everywhere. The covenant was binding upon all Jews even though many Jews, especially in modern times, were completely unaware of its existence and the grip it exerted on their lives and society.
It is this covenant that governs Jewish history and our current events as well. There is no other rational way to look at our story, past, present and undoubtedly future, in the absence of the overriding influence and presence of the covenant that Moshe and Israel entered into as recorded in this week’s Torah reading.
The demands of the covenant are strong and oftentimes appear to be severe. But an “easy” covenant would be useless considering the challenges and rigors of Jewish history. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein often stated: “People say it is difficult to be a Jew and they are correct in that assessment.  But I say that it is even more difficult for a Jew not to be a Jew!” Such is the nature of God’s   covenant with us and it has proven to be eternal and binding for all of the millennia of Jewish existence. That is why this is the final major public act of the career of Moshe as the leader of the Jewish people. As long as the covenant holds, he is assured of the eternity of Israel and his own immortality.
Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Berel Wein

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