This week’s portion continues with the theme of renewing the covenant between the Children of Israel and God. Moses addresses the entire nation directly, delineating the specific groups — man, woman, child; elder, convert, servant — who are present, telling them both they and those not present today are entering into a permanent covenant with God. According to this covenant, they are all responsible for serving God. Should anyone think they can continue to do as they please and worship the various gods of the foreign nations without harm, they are mistaken. All the evil listed in last week’s portion will befall them, to the point where others seeing the desolation will realize they are being punished for abandoning God and kindling His wrath. Moses tells the people they are all responsible for one another, and while secrets belong to God alone, public transgressions are the domain of the entire nation to correct.
The Israel Bible notes that this covenantal renewal takes place of the plains of Moab, or Arvot Moav in Hebrew. The word Arvot is reminiscent of the Hebrew word arvut, or mutual responsibility. According to Rabbi Riskin of Efrat, “I would submit that this covenant is that of mutuality, inter-dependent co-signership, but not necessarily between Jew and Jew – that was already incorporated into the previous covenants – but rather between Israel and the other nations of the world. After all, when Abraham was originally elected, G-d commanded that ‘through you all the families of the world will be blessed’ – through the message of Ethical Monotheism, the vision of a G-d who demands justice, compassion and peace, which Abraham’s descendants must convey to the world. This is the true mission of Israel… This third covenant is the covenant of Israel’s responsibility to the world!”
Virtual Classroom Discussion
Why do you think Moses specifies the different groups of people standing before him? Why do you think he singles out the “hewer of thy wood [and] the drawer of thy water” (29:10)?