After forty years of wandering in the desert, after all the travails and disappointments, the nation of Israel is ready to cross the Jordan River and enter the promised land. Moses, the redeemer, the man who led them out of the bondage of Egypt, the man who brought the people of Israel God’s law will not cross with the rest of the nation. God has told him he will die on the eastern bank of the Jordan River.
However, before he sheds his mortal coil, Moses convenes the entire population of Israel. He gathers them together, the children of the former slaves of Egypt, and binds them in an eternal covenant with God. It is a covenant which reestablishes the Jewish nation as chosen by God to be a beacon to the peoples of the world. It is a covenant where the people of Israel accept upon themselves God’s commands. They accept to be His servants and to follow His will as detailed in the written Torah which Moses wrote and the oral Torah that he transmitted.
The Bechor Shor on Deuteronomy 29:10 explains that this was the ideal time and place for Moses to establish the covenant. He wanted everyone present. He didn’t want anyone to be able to say “I wasn’t there” or “I didn’t hear.” This would be the last time the entirety of the Jewish people would all be in one concentrated location. Once they would enter the Land of Canaan, they would disperse. Each family would settle in their inheritance. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to then gather every single Israelite together. A person could be sick or incapacitated, unable to travel or for whatever reason, unable to leave their home. While they are all camped together within an area of a few square miles, there were no excuses. Every single person, every woman, every man, every child, every elder, whether they are sick, or blind, or lame, was present. Every single soul from the nation of Israel was present for the establishment of the covenant with God. There was not one person that was left out.
The Bechor Shor elaborates that Moses didn’t want a situation where someone in the future would say, “we didn’t accept this covenant.” It was an opportune time to forge the covenant and Moses seized it. The covenant between the people of Israel and God wasn’t only accepted by the Jewish people as a whole. It was also accepted by every single individual Jew as well.
May we realize the preciousness of the covenant and always attempt to live up to it.
Dedication: To the staff of University Medical Center of Las Vegas for their outstanding care, and to the continued healing of my father, Shlomo Eliezer ben Yetta.