Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Covenant of the Ancients

                                                          Parashas Bechukosai
                                                   A Covenant of The Ancients
                                                             Rabbi David Katz
In our Parasha we are confronted with many warnings of travesty should The Children of Israel slack in its Mission; a Mission that tradition and scripture makes very clear to us, as "being the Light to the Nations." There are many who have "a vision" as to what exactly this light is supposed to be, or at least a vague opinion of the do's and don'ts to this task, but the intrinsic nature of the task at hand is always still subject to debate and/or even speculation. The difficulties of articulation on this level aren't because of a lack of desire or even God forbid intelligence level, rather the answers only shine their brightest under rocks that we never even considered to turn over – no matter how much of an oxymoron this may sound. Thus we are truly Blessed to have in front of us this week, one of the most sublime insights to the Jewish-Ger [Noahide] relationship and its success, encapsulated in one of the Torah's most obscure passages, and definitely notoriously over-looked. Quite simply, the Torah says, "… [in regards to punishments, followed by desolation in the Land and a promise to remember the Avot, while the Jews are in exiled lands – and God promises to not obliterate them or annul the vow/covenant with Israel] I will remember for them the covenant of the Ancients, those whom I have taken out of the Land of Egypt before the eyes of the nations, to be God unto them – I am Hashem."

At first glance of our quoted verse [Vayikra 26:45] one could easily glance over it and not walk away with much gained wisdom, or even a blip on the radar. Let's assume that one is to first read this in English [even if alongside the Hebrew] – objectively, the very words as they connect should raise eyebrows. We find "Ancients" and "Covenant" in close proximity to a very famous messianic concept in the name of Jacob being spelled with an extra letter "vav" symbolizing the letter vav of Elijah's name; the mutual letter vav is a promissory note to bring the full redemption, of which Elijah is said to announce [and Jacob took the letter vav to guarantee that the job gets done]. When put into context altogether it proves to be quite interesting even on an observation level, and certainly is worthy of further investigation.

Investigation does in fact yield a treasure-trove of insights, particularly in the area of Midrash and classic commentary of the verse. The Midrash states that the ancients that are spoken of are the pre-Israelite righteous souls of whom founded the way of God from the time of the Garden and onward. These would include Adam, Seth, Hanoch, Noah, and Shem. In a World that pre-dated Judaism, there was an unbroken chain of righteous souls whose mission was to ensure that the path to God would never become lost from spiritual hardship. Hashem made Himself known to them and established a covenant "with the ancients." The verse splits from there and addresses the Jews, namely by pointing out the redemption led by Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

The ingredients of the verse thus make a four-pronged idea: 1) "I will make known to Israel the covenant of the ancients" 2) – "that is why I [Hashem] has placed Israel in Egypt and brought them out" 3) "as this would be put in the eyes of the nations" 4) "all so that I should be God to them" [and Israel would function as Light to the Nations]

Here we have a completely novel way of interpreting the verse, and taken from a unique angle of how the non-Jew views the Israelite experience from Egypt through the redemption and into current states of affairs. The process would see a pre-Israel World, followed by giving birth to Judaism, who would be delivered to serve as a means of revelation of the covenant of the ancients, so as to make illuminated true spiritual reality and history to the eyes of the nations, with the goal that Hashem would naturally be realized as the true God of Creation. Reading the verse this way makes sense on an exegesis level as well as aligning with the hidden context of Torah characters through time with specific non-identical functions, and overall taking its depth radically greater than if we were to read the verse and fully work with the given variables that were found through investigation.

The result radically shifts our perspective of the Jewish Mission. To be a Light to Nations now comes in a new light of its own, in that we have context to the Jewish story, and the Ger point of view looking at Jews has a new focus as well. The Jew is seen to be a remembrance for the nations as to who they are, where they are from, and their relationship to Israel and ultimately God – furthering the promise to the ancients that they would never be forgotten; and to Israel this is their security as well. Thus to Jews and Gerim, the ancients would factor into both traditions, and serve as a substantial substance to the awakening and survival of both. We now have context of a history of exile and the keys to redemption, as it will happen in the future based on what happen(s) in the past.

The reader is informed that as a sign of redemption after the warnings have all manifested and the land remains barren and devoid of true Israel, a recollection of the covenant of the ancients will commence. Israel would become the catalyst to revisit the Torah of the Ancients through luminaries such as Shem son of Noah. The irony is, that the Ancients not only remind the nations who they are and what is their relationship with the Almighty, but simultaneously the arousal from within the Jewish camp becomes activated. A completely Jewish Torah that exists as a product of exile cries for its lost roots, in that it too needs reminded of the Ancients and their righteous teachings; all enclothed within the Torah of Moses, a Torah from Sinai destined for all of Mankind. This is the Mission of Israel, and this is their Light that Hashem has promised to return in the right visible time.

History has revisionists all over it, yet Hashem has laid out how the revealed end will go, and the commentators suggest that this is a hint in the Torah of how to recognize the famous war of the End Times "Gog Magog." It will be made visible by signs of the Ancients [thus a return of Gerim] and Israel ascending to their posts of this revival of the Torah's innermost chambers. The path to redemption is painfully clear: recognize and yearn for the spiritual technology of the Ancients – for the Mission of Israel is to recall this Light and reintroduce it to our consciousness, paving a path that extends beyond the darkness of the walls of exiles.

May the Gerim and Jews continue their holy Mission to bring forth the Light of the Ancients.


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