A Second Covenant

29:9 Moses continued, “You are all standing today before God, your God (beginning with the men,in order of importance: the leaders of your tribes, your elders, your sheriffs, and every Israelite man;

10 followed by your young children,1 your womenfolk, and your converts who have been accepted into your camp, including the recent converts, whom I appointed to be your woodcuttersand your water drawers)2

11 because I have assembled you specifically in order that you may enter into a second covenant with God, your God—and, in order to make this covenant permanent,3 totake His oath to uphold it—which God, your God, is making with you today

Second Reading 12 in order to permanently establish you today as His people, so that He can be your God for all time, as He spoke concerning you and as He swore to your forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If, however, you do not enter into this second covenant with God and swear to uphold it, He will not be able to keep the promise He made to your ancestors—to make their descendants for all time His chosen people—for the following reason:

13 In the first covenant that God made with you, when He gave you the Torah at Mount Sinai, you did become His chosen people,4 but that covenant applied only to our generation. Moreover, it was contingent upon your continued adherence to its terms, as evidenced by the fact that it had to be renewed after you violated it in the incident of the Golden Calf.5 God now wants your covenantal relationship with Him to be absolute—not subject to abrogation by any vagaries in your behavior; only in this way will you be able to remain His chosen people forever. To that end, I am not making this covenant and administering this oath on God’s behalf6 solely with you and only consequently—by proxy—with future generations;

14 rather,I am making it directly with those standing here with us today before God, our God, and, at the same time, directly with all future generations of Jews who are not present here with us today.7Thus, every future Jew, rather than being obligated to observe the commandments and being privileged to enjoy the accompanying unique relationship with God only indirectly, by virtue of the covenant made between God and the Jewish people in the past, will instead be a direct party to this covenant.

Third Reading 15 The reason why I must make this additional covenant between you and God is because you know how we suffered when we dwelt in Egypt, and how we passed through theterritories of the nations that you encountered on our way during the ensuing 40 years.

16 You saw their loathsome and repugnant idolsof wood and stone, for they were not afraid to display these publicly, and you were also aware of their idols of silver and gold, which they kept hidden with them because they were afraid of their being stolen.

17 Having seen and heard about these idols and their cults, perhaps there is among you—or will be among future generations of Jews8a man, woman, family, or tribe, whose heart is straying today (or will stray in the future) from being covenantally bound to God, our God, who will induce you to go and worship the deities of those nations. Perhaps there is among you, figuratively speaking, a root that produces poison hemlock and bitter wormwood, i.e., an individual or group of people who will spread idolatry among you.

18 When such an individual (or group—and so for the rest of the discussion) hears the words of this oath, he may bless himself in his heart, deluding himself into thinking that he is immune to the curses he has heard, saying, ‘I will continue to enjoy peace of mind even if I follow my heart’s desires.’ As a result, God will add the punishment for this individual’s or group’s previous,unintentional sins (which were committed inadvertently, as if in a state of drunkenness, and which He had overlooked until now) to the punishment of their intentional sins (which were committed deliberately, as if thirsty to do so).

19 God will not be willing to forgive him, for God’s fury and His zeal will then fume against that man, and the entire curse written in this scroll will come down upon him, and God will obliterate his name from under heaven, i.e., from the whole world.

20 God will single him out from among all the tribes of Israel for evil, dealing with him in accordance with all the curses of the covenant written in this Torah scroll.

21 A later generation, made up of your descendants who will arise after you, along with the foreigner who comes from a distant land, will say, upon seeing the plagues of that land and the diseases with which God struck it:

22 Everything is sulfur and salt! This nation’s entire land is burned up! It cannot be sown, nor can it grow anything; not even any grass will sprout from it. It is similar to how God overturned Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Tzevoyim in His fury and in His rage.’9

23 All the other nations will say, ‘Why did God do this to this land? What is the reason for this great, furious rage?’

24 Answering their own question, they will say, ‘It is because they forsook the covenant of God, God of their forefathers, which He made with them when He took them out of Egypt,

25 for they went and served other deities, prostrating themselves to them—deities that they had never known to be real or effective, and that He had not assigned to them, but to the rest of humanity, in order to test whether they would succumb to the temptation of worshipping these deities.10

26 Therefore God’s fury raged against that land, bringing upon it the entire curse written in this book.

27 God uprooted them from their land with fury, wrath, and fuming indignation, and He cast them to another land, leaving them just as they are this day.’

28 A second reason why it is necessary for you to enter into this new, additional covenant is to make you all officially responsible and liable for one another:11 As I said above,12 you will be held collectively accountable if any individual, family, or tribe strays from God and influences the rest of the community to do likewise. This does not imply, however, that you will be held responsible for others’ thoughts, for these are hidden from you; you will only be held collectively responsible for words and actions performed by those among you. The hidden things, such as others’ thoughts, are for God, our God, to handle; only the revealed things—their words and actions—are for us and for our children to handle forever, to ensure that we, as a nation, fulfill all the words of this Torah.

This collective responsibility for the morality of the nation will not take effect until you perform the ceremony of blessings and curses on Mount Gerizim and Mount Eival,13 in which you will affirm your mutual responsibility to fulfill the Torah’s directives. Therefore, inasmuch as this covenant is crucial to your successful establishment in your land, I waited until today, the last day of my life and thus as close as possible to your entry into the land, to forge this covenant between you and God.14

Moses then both performed the ritual that actualized the covenant and administered the oath, as he said.15

Promises of Future Happiness

Fourth Reading (Second when combined) 30:1 Moses then continued,When the Levites pronounce the blessings and curses at Mount Gerizim and Mount Eival, the blessings will take effect immediately (although their continued effectiveness will depend upon your adherence to the terms of the covenant), whereas the curses will take effect only if and when you infringe the covenant. But even if you do infringe the covenant, you will always, sooner or later, renew it: When all these things come upon you—i.e., the blessing and the curse that I have set before you—I promise you that you will consider them in your heart, as you reside amidst all the nations to which God, your God, has banished you,

2 and, motivated by the blessings that you have enjoyed and by the curses from which you will have suffered, you will be inspired to return to God, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, and you will once again heed His voice in accordance with all that I am commanding you today—you and your children.

The contrast of having endured the curses only after having enjoyed God’s bounty will heighten the curses’ impact. Thus, not only the curses, but the blessings, too, will help induce you to repent.16

3 Then, God, your God, will bring back your exiles, and He will have mercy upon you. He will once again gather you from among all the nations to which He—God, your Godhad dispersed you. In so doing, He will also be returning His own Divine Presence, which had accompanied you into exile, to its ‘homeland’—the land He designated to be the setting in which He would demonstrate most fully how the world can be made into His home.17

By the time of your redemption, you will have become so entrenched in your exile that ingathering you will be especially complicated. Therefore, this process will have to be an openly miraculous one, entailing revealed Divine intervention in the course of every individual Jew’s return.18

The nations of the world who oppressed you while you were in exile will also receive various forms of corrective punishments for their behavior, one of which will be exile from their own native lands. When the time for your redemption arrives, those exiled nations will also return to their homelands, and thus the elements of the Divine Presence that were displaced because of their exiles will also return to their proper location. Gathering these nations back to their homelands will also be complicated, but not to the extent that miracles will be required to ingather each individual: Divine providence will be apparent with regard to each people’s national return,19 but the return of each individual, in contrast, will be garbed in the guise of natural processes.20

4 Even if some of your exiles are in countries located at the end of the heavens,21 God, your God, will gather you from there, and He will take you back from there.

5 God, your God, will bring you to the land that your forefathers took possession of, and you too will take possession of it. He will be better to you than He was to your forefathers, and He will also make you more numerous than were your forefathers.

6 I previously instructed you, as part of the process of repentance, to figuratively ‘circumcise the foreskin of your heart,’22 i.e., to cease to be callous in the face of God’s love for you. In contrast, your future repentance, preceding and ushering in your final redemption, will be so comprehensive that it will encompass your whole heart, as I have said,23 and thus there will be no need to ‘circumcise’ any figurative ‘foreskin’ covering it; you will be loving God at the maximum degree of intensity that human beings can reach on their own. However, once you have reached this intensity of love, God will be able to grant you an even greater ability to love Him, and to that end, God, your God, will Himself figuratively circumcise not the ‘foreskin of your heart’ but your heart itself, as well as the heart of your offspring, enabling you to love God, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, for the sake of your very life. This ‘circumcision of the heart’ will consist of nullifying the heart’s present nature to desire everything the eye takes in. Once your heart is liberated from this constant distraction, it will be free to focus solely on your emotional relationship with God, bringing it to continuously higher levels of rapture.24

Fifth Reading (Third when combined) 7 God, your God, will then place all these curses upon your enemies and those who hate you, who pursued you.

8 Since you,in contrast to your enemies, will return to Him, once again obeying God and fulfilling all His commandments that I am commanding you today,

9 God, your God, will make you superabundant in the products of all the work of your hands, in the fruit of your womb, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil, all in only good ways. For God will once again rejoice over you, to do good to you, as He rejoiced over your forefathers,

10 when you obey God, your God, safeguarding His commandments and His rules written in this Torah scroll by studying them assiduously; and when you return to God, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul.

Sixth Reading 11 You may think—recalling that the true setting for studying the Torah and performing God’s commandments is the Land of Israel25—that it is impossible to truly learn and understand the Torah while in exile. This, however, is not the case, for this commandment, i.e., to study the entire Torah, about which I am commanding you today, is not only not unreachably remote from you—no matter where you are—it is not even so far away that you have to go elsewhere to learn it.

12 In other words: if the vagrancy of exile leads you exceedingly far from the Land of Israel—to countries located ‘at the end of heaven’26—you should not think that the Torah is accessible only in your homeland, which is located at the other end of heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to “heaven” for us and fetch it for us, to expound it to us so that we can fulfill it?’

13 And even if you settle somewhere closer to the Land of Israel, somewhere from which the Land of Israel is accessible by sea, you should not even think that the Torah is beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us and fetch it for us, to expound it to us so that we can fulfill it?’27

14 If learning the Torah did indeed entail such a voyage, you would have to undertake it. But it does not, for this thing is very close to you: The Torah isnot a cryptic or obscure document accessible only to an exclusive elite; God has placed its explanation, as it were, in your mouth and in your heart—in the form of the Oral Torah—so you can fulfill it correctly and confidently.28

Free Choice

Seventh Reading & Maftir (Fourth Reading when combined) 15 Behold, I have set before you today life and good on the one hand and death and evil on the other.

16 And life and death result from choosing good or evil, respectively, inasmuch as I command you today to love God, your God, to walk in His ways, and to safeguard His commandments, rules, and ordinances—this being ‘good’—and if you follow this path, you will live and increase in number, and God, your God, will bless you in the land that you are entering in order to possess—this being ‘life.

17 But, conversely, if your heart deviates from this path and you do not listen, and you be drawn astray and prostrate yourself to other deities and serve them—this being ‘evil’—

18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly perish. You will not endure on the land that you are crossing the Jordan River in order to enter and possess—this being ‘death.

19 Earlier, I invoked heaven and earth as reminders of my warning to you regarding the consequences of idol worship.29Similarly, I invoke heaven and earth again today—since they will still exist when all these prophecies come true, whereas I will not—as witnesses, i.e., as reminders,that I have warned you about them.30

I am also invoking heaven and earth as witnesses because God wants you to compare yourselves to them: They are neither rewarded for fulfilling their tasks, nor would they be punished were they to fail to do so, yet they faithfully remain true to their mission. The heavenly bodies are consistent in their orbits, and the earth always produces whatever species of vegetation is planted in it. How much more should you, who have been promised reward and threatened with punishment, remain true to your Divine mission.

I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. But I know that it is not always clear that good behavior leads to blessings and life and that bad behavior leads to curses and death. In fact, the exact opposite often seems to be true.31 Therefore, let me remind you that as master of the world, God knows which choices lead to which ultimate ends, and that as your loving parent, He has only your unadulterated best interests at heart. Moreover, you know that occasionally it is indeed evident that proper choices lead to favorable results. For all these reasons, you should trust God implicitly32 and choose the path that leads to life, in order that you and your offspring will live

20 namely, to love God, your God, to obey Him, and to cleave to Him, for He is your source of life and the source of your length of days, and it is He who enables you to dwell in the land that God swore to your forefathers—to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—that He would give them.”