DANIEL H. GORDIS
Judaism's "Other" Covenantal Relationship
Over the course of Jewish history, the ways in which Jews have understood their relationship with God-- their covenant--have changed dramatically. But at least until modern times, few Jews even attempted a theory of Jewish life that did not have covenant at its core; as a result, the customs and practices of traditional Judaism have always sought to provide both individual Jews and Jewish communities with concrete ways of expressing their relationship with God. One of the most significant insights of traditional Judaism has been its contention that a relationship cannot exist in a vacuum. Just as one could not successfully sustain a relationship of love with another human being without expressing that love in numerous observable ways, so too does the Jew's relationship with God require concrete expression.
That expression takes many forms in Jewish life. Traditional Judaism regulates virtually every element of human life, including diet, clothing, relations with others, and speech, all with an eye toward dedicating every moment of human life to an awareness and appreciation of the Jew's relationship, or covenant, with God.