Two Covenants By Chaim Metzger


This week’s Parashah contains perhaps the most famous covenant in all of scripture, Brit Milah.  Hashem makes this covenant with Avram and renames him Avraham, because he will be “Av Hamon Goyim,” “Father of a multitude of nations” (BeReishit 17:5).  Avraham is also promised that he will be fruitful, that the covenant will last throughout the generations, and that his descendants will eventually inherit the land of Canaan.  When a Jewish male reaches the age of eight days, he is circumcised and brought into this covenant between Hashem and the Jewish people.

Rav Amnon Bazak, a Rebbe (instructor of Judaic Studies) at Yeshivat Har Etzion, notes that upon further inspection one realizes that this treaty is quite similar to that of last week’s Parashah—Brit HaKeshet, the covenant of the rainbow.  Hashem begins both pronouncements with the word “Zot,” “This” (9:12 and 17:5), and finishes with the fact that the Brit will be “Beini UVeineichem,” “Between Me and you” (9:15 and 17:11).  Both passages also repeat the words “Basar,” “Meat,” and “Brit,” “Covenant,” several times.  Rav Bazak suggests that these similarities bring out the differences between the covenants.  Brit HaKeshet was between Hashem and all of mankind, and the terms of the covenant didn’t include the people themselves, as the rainbow was to serve as a sign between Hashem and the land.  Brit Mila was specifically between Hashem and Avraham and his descendants.  Brit Mila was and continues to be done on a personal level as each and every male reaccepts it as they circumcise their sons.  Brit HaKeshet was universal and affected both man and the world, with its two stipulations being “VeLo Yikareit Kol Basar Od MiMei HaMabul,” “Never again shall flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood,” and “VeLo Yihyeh Od Mabul Leshacheit HaAretz,” “Never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth” (9:11).  As such, this covenant protects all of humanity no matter where on earth they may be.  Brit Mila, however, applies to a specific place— Eretz Yisrael, as the Pasuk states, “VeNatati Lecha ULZaracha Acharecha Eit Eretz Megurecha Eit Kol Eretz Canaan LaAchuzat Olam,” “And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojourns, the whole land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession” (17:8).  Eretz Yisrael, therefore, has a special connection to Bnei Yisrael: when Bnei Yisrael are in Eretz Yisrael, Hashem will be fully able to be their God without interference and fulfill the end of the Pasuk, “VeHayiti Lahem LEilokim,” “And I shall be a God to them.”

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