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   by Jacob Solomon

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Then I (G-d) will remember My covenant with Jacob; I will also remember my covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham; and I will remember the Land…(26:42).

These are the opening words of consolation at the end of the Tochacha - the words of dire warning from the Almighty to the Israelites of what will happen if they failed to obey His commandments. Suffering and exile will not go on forever. Rashi explains that the verse means that G-d will recall the merits of the Patriarch Jacob in the favour of the Israelites who have gone astray. If Jacob's merits are not sufficient, G-d will add Isaac's, and if those both don't equal their shortcomings, He will invoke the good things that Abraham did.

The verse may be also understood as referring to the situation of four types of Israelites in exile. Jacob's personality includes one type, Isaac's a second, Abraham a third, and "the Land" the fourth.

Jacob's underlying character is emet - truth (c.f. Micah 7:20), which was tested in having to be put aside for higher purposes in connection with Laban. Some Jews have remained loyal to their traditions wherever they have been, in accepting the Torah as their guiding truth from generation to generation. They have learnt it, they have absorbed it, they have felt congruent with it, and they feel that it is the crucial element that shapes their purposes in life. It is indeed their merits which recall G-d's covenant with Jacob.

Isaac's distinguishing characteristic is pahad - fear (Gen. 31:42). Isaac appears to have been a follower and consolidator, in contrast with his innovator-father, Abraham. He represents the Jew that is loyal to tradition accepting what the tradition is even his relationship with the Torah is passive conformity rather than active engagement. It is this merit which recalls G-d's covenant with Isaac.

Abraham's trait is chesed - kindness (c.f. Micah 7:20), which was tested in having to be put aside with both Ishmael and Isaac. There are Jews who are not actively observant in the Halachic sense, but are nevertheless decently, morally impeccable people who go out of their way to help others. Such behaviour recalls G-d's approval for the concern shown by Abraham for other people.

But there is a fourth type that has completely gone off the rails, completely lost connection with the Torah roots and for that matter, common decency and truth. For example, he or she might have fallen prey to the passing fads of the post-enlightenment "isms", some of which have been most destructive of society at large.

These are the people who Ezekiel describes as: "They settled within the nations, and they desecrated My Holy Name. There, it was said of them that they were G-d's people, but they had departed from His Land" (Ez. 36:20). By desecrating G-d's name during exile, they behaved in such a way that the gentiles despised them not on racial grounds, but on moral grounds.

The focus of their redemption is the Land "and I will remember the Land". As Ezekiel reveals G-d's will: "I will sanctify My Holy Name that was profaned (by the Israelites during exile) amongst the nations… so that all the nations will know that I am G-d… when I gather you together from the nations and bring you to the Land" (ibid: 23-4). And there, declares Ezekiel, G-d will give them "a new heart and a new spirit" (ibid: 26).

For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at and on the material on the Haftara at .

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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