Friday, 23 July 2021
"The L-rd did not cut this covenant with our fathers, but with us: we, these here today; all of us alive." (D'varim 5:3)
Building on the Ralbag's statement that "every generation must think that the Torah was given directly to them", Friedman concludes that "Moshe mixes past, present and future. He speaks to the people in front of him as if they had all been at Sinai forty years earlier. Now he says it explicitly, powerfully, unmistakably, with seven different words: Each generation must see themselves as personally standing at Sinai, not just inheriting their parents' covenant, but as making the covenant themselves. It is a present, living commitment." This is important because each successive generation needs to own the covenant as theirs, rather than something they are stuck with. The covenant is a living relationship, made with and involving living people, those who are alive - those who choose to make it their own, to live within it and have it live within them. Abravanel agrees: "The Torah is not given to those who originally received it, but to those who are living in every generation." And, as the Sforno points out, succession is a critical component: "you who have made the covenant (with G-d) and are about to enter the Land, arrange your affairs in such manner that coming generations who were not present when this covenant was established will (still) fulfill that which you accepted upon yourselves."
Christian commentators see this in the same way. Christopher Wright says that, "Moshe's point is that this present generation - and therefore by implication all future generations - was just as much a partner in the covenant concluded at Sinai as those who actually stood at the foot of the mountain itself. The covenant was never a thing of the past, because Yahweh, as the living G-d, was the contemporary of every succeeding generation." This fits exactly with Yeshua's teaching about the resurrection: "as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by G-d: 'I am the G-d of Avraham, and the G-d of Yitz'khak, and the G-d of Ya'akov'? He is not G-d of the dead, but of the living" (Matthew 22:31-32, ESV). Walter Brueggemann makes the important point that "the covenant is here and now, not there and then. The words pile up in verse 3 to establish contemporary pertinence: with us, we, these here, today, all of us, alive. This is the generation of covenant, situated in a distinctive identity, precluded from the optional worlds of idols, committed to this singular, all-demanding loyalty." We are the generation of covenant, right here and right now, living in Yeshua's words, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood" (Luke 22:20, ESV).
Perhaps the most telling comment, however, comes from Patrick Miller: "The time gap and the generation gap are dissolved in the claim that the covenant at Sinai, the primal revelation that created the enduring relationship between the people and the L-rd, was really made with the present generation. The covenant is not an event, a claim, a relationship of the past; it is of the present ... The actualisation of the covenant and its demands is for the present."3 Each generation in turn is the present generation and Yeshua's voice reaches out to each of us where we are, living in the present day of our world and time. Yeshua's crucifixion and resurrection, the bread and wine at the Last Supper, the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost, are not simply historical events; they are not a past relationship, either for the generation when they originally happened or for some subsequent generation such as that of our parents. They have no claim over us because they happened two thousand years ago. They affect us, they call to us, they require our attention and involvement now because they are present right here and right now. Yeshua's call to "repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17) necessitates our response because it is true now, for us.
This is an excerpt taken from the weekly drash for Va'etchanan.