ואתחנן

This week’s parsha contains the second iteration of the Ten Commandments (5:6-18), included in Moshe’s final speech to the Israelites.  In introducing them, Moshe’s status as an orator is made clear to me (without, I hope, being too anachronistic).  He says: “Hashem our God made a covenant with us as Chorev [Sinai].  Not with our fathers, but rather with us did Hashem make this covenant: us here today, all of us who are alive.  Face-to-face did Hashem speak with you in the mountain from amidst the fire” (5:2-4, translation mine).  The fact is, though, that Hashem did make that covenant with Moshe’s audience’s fathers.  Whether you think the primary covenant was made with the forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, or with the generation who left Egypt (who are the fathers and grandfathers of those about to enter Cana’an), the Israelites now listening to Moshe did not stand at Har Sinai any more than we did (granted, the midrash recited in the Haggadah attests to us all having stood there).  Listening to this text as the speech it purports to be, though, it is clear that, phrased this way, Moshe’s point is stronger.  By saying that these very Israelites were the primary ‘signatories’ on the covenant with Hashem, the responsibility to uphold that covenant is clearly redoubled.

God’s own covenant

Made across generations

Binds all who hear it

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