What Makes You Jewish Today?

September 12, 2017 at 2:26 AM , , ,

“…But not only with you am I making this covenant and this oath, but with those standing here with us today before Hashem our God, and with those who are not here with us, this day…” – Devarim 29:13-14

וְלֹא אִתְּכֶם לְבַדְּכֶם אָנֹכִי כֹּרֵת אֶת הַבְּרִית הַזֹּאת וְאֶת הָאָלָה הַזֹּאת: כִּי אֶת אֲשֶׁר יֶשְׁנוֹ פֹּה עִמָּנוּ עֹמֵד הַיּוֹם לִפְנֵי ה’ אֱלֹקֵינוּ וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר אֵינֶנּוּ פֹּה עִמָּנוּ הַיּוֹם – דברים כט, יג-יד

The entire Jewish nation assembled to enter a covenant with G-d. Moshe addressed them, saying that this covenant was not only with the Jews of that generation (who were all present,) but “with those standing here with us today before Hashem our G-d, and with those who are not here with us, this day.” Meaning, in the words of Rashi, “even with generations that will be in the future.”

The commentaries discuss how this covenant could include and be binding upon people who were not yet born, (including future converts to Judaism, as the Talmud states in Shevuos 39a.) Some explain that the souls of the future generations were present at that covenant, even though their bodies were not. Others explains that since a child is the continuation of his parents—in the terminology of the Talmudists, “a child is the leg of his father,”—hence, the future generations too were contained within those present at that covenant.


Rashi, however, offers neither of these explanations, nor any other. Implied is that these rationalizations are unnecessary. For according to Rashi, since G-d is not constrained by the limits of time, He can enter a covenant with people of the future directly, just as He can with people of the present.

Support for this is found in the words of the verse that this covenant is with “those standing with us here today… and with those who are not here with us.” Having already stated (in 29:11) that those present were entering the covenant, why was it necessary to repeat that the covenant encompassed “those standing with us here today”? Evidently, the Torah does so to equate G-d’s covenant with the Jews of future generations and His covenant with those present, saying that they are exactly alike.

Rashi therefore insists that the Jews of future generations enter this covenant not merely by virtue of their ancestors’ presence at the covenant, nor was the covenant merely with their souls, (unlike our ancestors whose bodies too entered in the covenant). Rather, every Jew for all eternity, body and soul, born-Jew and convert alike, is a direct and equal partner in this covenant with G-d.

-Likutei Sichos, vol. 19, pp. 266-271


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