Tuesday, September 4, 2018

A Multi-Generational Covenant

During the bleak times of the Holocaust, a woman inmate, like all others, stared into the sky of Auschwitz, praying to God to end the darkness. Like millions of others, she never witnessed the redemption for which she implored. She also did not know that her grandson would one day help lead a Jewish army built upon the ashes of the Shoah, never forgetting his grandmother’s plea.

On September 4, 2003, that woman’s grandson, Brigadier General Amir Eshel, flew his Israel Air Force (IAF) F-15 fighter jet over Auschwitz. He flew so low, that the 200 IDF soldiers standing at attention at a ceremony below could see the blue Magen David on the bottom of the plane. That same sky that had absorbed the prayers and final faithful words of millions of anguished Jews, now absorbed the jet wash of that multi-million dollar McDonnell Douglas flying machine. Prior to departing from Israel, Brigadier General Eshel, dramatically declared: "We are flying over the camp of horrors - we have risen from the ashes of the millions of victims and carry their silent cry. We salute their heroism, and swear to be a shield to the Jewish people and their country, Israel."

Parashat Nitzavim opens with a powerful description of the covenant between the People of Israel and God: “Not with you alone do I seal this covenant and this imprecation, but with whoever is here, standing with us today before Hashem, our God, and with whoever is not here with us today” (Deuteronomy 29:13-14).

Prior to his death, Moses gathered the entire nation, and audaciously insisted that they too are bound by the covenant ratified by their parents. How could that generation be responsible for an agreement made 40 years earlier? Some Biblical commentators suggest that the souls of all future unborn Jews were present at Sinai, and assented to the pledge. Others try to tie the binding nature of the pact to the laws of inheritance. Rabbi Meir Leibush ben Yechiel Michel, known as the Malbim, however, offers a different and less esoteric approach. He suggests that the covenant between the Jew and God is of ultimate importance. It’s not a legal issue; it’s the major factor of our religious personality! If our covenantal community is due to the commitment of that great generation that stood at Sinai, so must our covenantal identity.

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