Our Covenant Includes All: Thoughts on Deuteronomy 29
Our chapter is largely concerned with HaShem telling the Children of Israel what will befall them if they stray from the covenant which, it is emphasized, includes everyone, those who are there on that day and those who are not. If the Children of Israel uphold our covenant with HaShem and perform the mitzvot in accordance with it, all will be well—we will prosper and be blessed. However, if we fail to do so, much tragedy will befall us.
I am particularly drawn to the emphasis placed on the brit including everyone—those who are there on that day and those who are not. This tends to be understood is affirming that our covenant was collectively received across generations—all future generations being bound by it. Many who enter beneath the wings of the Shechinah—convert to Judaism—point to this idea as an affirmation that their neshamot, too, were at Sinai. That deep longing and spiritual yearning which compels so many people to choose Judaism is rooted there.
Blessedly, we live in a time in which klal Yisrael comprises individuals who come from a variety of backgrounds, life experiences and perspectives. Finding a way for all to feel a sense of spiritual home in our communities can be a daunting, sometimes uncomfortable endeavor. When we expand our minds, hearts and souls to experiences and perspectives we might not have considered, we are being given the incredible opportunity to deepen and enrich our thinking. When we take the lead and warmly embrace Jews from all backgrounds into our communities, the Torah we find within them is that much deeper, more resonant and spiritually alive. Baruch HaShem, I believe we are living in a time in which we are receiving a plethora of new chiddushim from voices and perspectives that have historically been marginalized, including women, Jews with disabilities, Jews of color and members of the lgbtqia community. In my own life and experience, I find myself feeling such hakarat hatov—tremendous gratitude—for the Torah I am learning from the teachers I most admire, many of whose voices have historically not been heard.
After all, the brit we all entered into included those who stood there on that day and all of those, across time, space and generation, who did not. May we never cease striving to build communities and spaces in which the Torah from all can find a home and be heard.