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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashios Behar/Bechukosi 5767 (from 5763)

This Shabbat we read the last two sedras of the Book of Leviticus. They discuss among other matters the Years of release of the land; laws of supporting the poor and dealing with servants; the blessings and the curse that will befall the nation if they go astray and particularly do not observe the Sabbatical year. We find the following verse at end of the Curse.

Leviticus 26:46

And I will remember the for them the covenant of the first ones whom I took out of the land of Egypt before the eyes of the nations to be a G-d to them - I am Hashem.


the covenant of the first ones: Rashi: of the tribes.


A Question: How does Rashi know that this covenant with the "first ones" refers to a covenant with the tribes? Maybe it refers to the actual "first ones," Abraham, Isaac & Jacob?

Hint: Why can this not reasonably refer to the Forefathers?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Two reasons: First, the covenants with the Forefathers have just been mentioned (see verse 46:22). So this cannot refer to them again. Secondly, it says: "whom I took out of Egypt" But G-d did not take the Forefathers out of Egypt, He took the nation Israel, the twelve tribes, out of Egypt.

So for these excellent reasons Rashi cannot accept that the covenant of the "first ones" refers to the Forefathers.


Rashi commentaries ask where is this covenant with "the first ones" - the tribes - mentioned in the Torah? They conclude that while they cannot find any citation in the Torah of this covenant the fact that these words cannot refer to any other covenant it must by force refer to a (apparently unknown) covenant with the tribes.

But I suggest that the Torah does mention this covenant with the tribes.

Can you find it?

Your Answer:


Look at the end of Parashas Mishpatim (Exodus 24: 4-8) it says:

"Moses wrote all the words of Hashem. He arose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. .....He took the book of the Covenant and read it in ears of the People and they said: 'Everything that Hashem has said we will do and we will obey. Moses took the blood and threw it on the People and said: 'Behold, the blood of the covenant that Hashem sealed with you concerning all these matters.

So we see that G-d did make a covenant with the tribes after the Exodus from Egypt. It fits with Rashi's comment perfectly.


We find a familiar verse in Psalms (ch. 104:8-10), which we say daily. It says: " He remembered His covenant forever...,which He made with Abraham and His vow to Yischak. Then He established it for Jacob as a statue, for Israel as an everlasting covenant." We usually interpret the words "Jacob" and "Israel" as referring to the same person; Jacob had another name, Israel. But according to what we have just said - that G-d made a separate covenant with the twelve tribes of Israel - we can say that "Jacob" refers to the Forefather Jacob, while "Israel" refers to the nation Israel - the twelve tribes. His covenant being the one referred in parashas Mishpatim and again hinted at in our verse in Bechukosi.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

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