Rethinking Jewish Faith: The Child of a Survivor Responds

By Steven L. Jacobs | Go to book overview

2
Covenant: Involuntary? Voluntary? Nonexistent?

The notion of Brith or "covenant" that has remained as the very essence of Israel's faith and relationship between itself and its God must now be re-thought and redefined in light of the Shoah. A violated but never abrogated Torahitic understanding of covenant makes sense only in relationship to that God who acts in history. Why bother with any other? Covenant with God, whereby both God and Israel agree to certain stipulations in order to maintain harmony and equilibrium is no longer logical nor desirable outside of such historically traditional ways of thinking, nor has it ever been. Irving "Yitz" Greenberg's "voluntary covenant" becomes an option only for those who wish to enter into it-as does its opposite, a rejection of the entire enterprise. 1 The Shoah forces us to confront reality on a starkly tragic plane whether we wish to do so or not. Therefore, we can no longer trust in our supposed covenantal relationship with God to keep the enemy from crouching at our door, to use the biblicalprophetic metaphor. Nor can God, however we choose to understand Him or Her, trust us not to act in ways that would prove either a one-time or perpetual violation of sacred trusts as regards the living things of our earthly home. If we are now to enter into religiously sensitive and renewable covenants, they must be with each other as individuals, as communities, as nation-states. Humanity having now actualized and demonstrated the potential to destroy larger and larger groups, we Jews having now been the recipients of such destruction, together, we must guard against repetition by our continual willingness to engage in dialogue, despite our differences, even with those whose value systems we fundamentally reject. Historically and contemporarily, Russians and Americans, Jewish and Christians, Jews and Jews, Jews and Arabs, Jews and Palestinians, Jews and Germans, 2 Christians and Christians, Christians and Arabs, must, in fact, enter

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