• Light of Torah

From Age to Age, A Living Tradition

Moses and the Israelites are encamped on the plains of Moab, poised to enter the promised land. There Moses gives a final speech, restating the obligations of the covenant between God and Israel.

As he speaks, we hear this arresting statement:

“I am making this covenant, sworn by an oath, not only with you who stand here with us today before the LORD our God, but also with those who are not here with us today.”

Deuteronomy 29:14-15 (NRSV)

Who are those “who are not here with us this day”? It can’t mean absentees on the day since just a few verses earlier we were told that all Israelites from all groups are assembled.

According to the great medieval Jewish scholar known as Rashi, the souls of all future generations of Jews were present at this covenantal moment, just as they were at Mount Sinai. This concept is of profound importance to Jewish understanding of what it means to be God’s people, bearers of the divine promises and the covenant from generation to generation. The fact that this verse uses the word “stand” when referring to those “here” and then omits it when speaking of those “not here” can perhaps be taken as a distinction between those bodily present and those spiritually present. [1]