In this week's parsha, Ki Tavo, just before the Jewish people enter the land of Israel, Moshe tells us a long list of blessings that will come to us in the land of Israel if we follow the ways of His Torah, and G-d forbid, of curses that will come to us if we stray from them.

At first glance, these blessings and curses look like rewards and punishments, but they really aren't. At the very end of the list, the Torah says

"These are the words of the Covenant that Hashem commanded Moshe to cut with Bnei Yisrael in the land of Moav, aside from the Covenant that was cut with them at Horev (Mt Sinai)." (Devarim 28:69)

So we see that these words are not reward and punishments – they are actually tools to forging a covenant between Hashem and the Jewish people. Let us try and understand the nature of our covenant with Hashem.

If you look carefully at the verse above, the word it uses for creating this covenant is to 'cut' a covenant. It's a strange choice of word. Here we are joining two parties, and you use the word "cut"? Rather use the word "Forge", or "Build"!? "Cut" seems a strange choice.

The Ramban explains that the word for a covenant in Ivrit is "brit", and that it comes from the same word as "briah" which means create. Whenever you see a covenant being formed, it is the creation of a new entity that didn't exist before. When we talk about a 'brit', we are referring to a covenant that is so close and intrinsic that each member of the covenant becomes a part of the other member.

An analogy: Two friends are traveling together, and have been for a long time. They really love each other, but eventually they arrive at a fork in the road and they have to part and each go their separate ways. They can't bear to part! So they decide that each of them should give something to the other that is so special to them that it is basically a part of who they are. Something they can barely bear to give away. But now, whenever one of the travelers is on his way, he has a piece of his friend with him, and so too for the other traveler. They have each become a new person – a person that now contains a piece of the friend with whom they have created an intrinsic bond.

We see this whenever the Torah describes a covenant. The classic example is marriage. Before a wedding, you have two separate people walking down the aisle. After a wedding, you have one. When Hashem created Eve and showed her to Adam, he said

"And Adam said 'This is the time! This is a bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh! She will be called "isha" (woman) because from "ish" (man) she was taken. Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife and they will be one flesh." (Bereishit 2:23). When a husband and wife get married they form a covenant and each cuts out a piece of themselves and gives it to their partner, and they become one.

That is the relationship we have with Hashem. That's why the Torah uses the word "cut" to describe the building of our covenant with Hashem. At first Hashem set up this covenant with us at Mt Sinai, but we lost it, if not entirely then almost entirely, when we sinned with the Golden Calf. So this time, Hashem made it with us again, but this time it can never be broken. These curses we read this week are not punishments – they are a built in mechanism. It's just simply not possible for the Jewish people to exist outside of our covenant with Hashem. It's who we are. That's why our Sages explain that really, according to what we've said, we see the love that Hashem has for us more in the curses than in the blessings. Because in them we see that even in the time that we separate ourselves from Hashem, that covenant continues. Even then Hashem waits for us to return to Him and live out that relationship as it should be…. But it never broke, and never will. The love and connection He has to us exists no matter what. It's only because of that love that He tries to show us we need to return to Him.

May we all be able to recognize and feel that 'brit' that we have with Hashem in every situation and every time and place, and keep in our minds the verse we read this week:

"This day, Hashem, your God, commands you to perform these statutes and the laws, and you shall observe and perform them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have distinguished Hashem today to be a God for you, and to walk in His ways, and to observe His statutes, His commandments, and His laws, and to listen to His voice. And Hashem has distinguished you today to be for Him a treasured people, as He spoke to you, and to observe all His commandments, and to make you supreme over all the nations that He made, for praise, for renown and for splendor, and so that you will be a holy people to Hashem, your God, as He spoke!"

(Devarim 26:16-19)

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