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Rabbi Acoca on Parashat Ha’azinu

Rabbi Ilan Acoca (YouTube screenshot)

The final parshiyot of the Torah talk about Moses’ final days on earth and the last message he gives am Yisra’el before he leaves this world. Moses reminds the Israelites that they have a covenant with God, to listen to and obey His commandments and that, as long as they comply with them, God will keep them alive and protect them. This covenant is not only for that generation, but for all generations to come – including us, of course.

How is it possible that the generations that came later are part of a covenant they did not agree to? How could someone agree to something on my behalf when I did not give the “green light”? Different commentators deal with this question.

The Abarbanel, a 15th-century Spanish scholar, writes that this covenant is like a debt that is passed on to heirs upon the death of the borrower. We owe everything to God, who among numerous things, took us out of Egypt and brought us to the Promised Land. Therefore, concludes the Abarbanel, as much as our forefathers paid God, it was not enough, and as much as we will pay Him, it will never be enough. That is why we are part of the covenant.

The Malbim, a 19th-century Ukrainian commentator, offers another reason. He wrote that it is because the Talmud says that we are allowed to accept something positive or good on behalf of someone else, even without his consent, because it will benefit the recipient. The covenant that the Jewish nation accepted at the time was beneficial for all generations, therefore, we are still beholden to its terms.

The common denominator these and other rationales suggest is that, as Jews, we are fortunate to be part of this amazing nation. During this new year, let us take a moment to thank God for that.