The Covenant of the Avot and the Land
הרב מרדכי גרינברג
"I will remember My covenant of Yaakov and also My covenant of Yitzchak, and also My covenant of Avraham I will remember, and I will remember the Land." (Vayikra 26:42) It does not say, "My covenant with Avraham," but rather, "My covenant of Avraham." Rav Hirsch derives from this that there are three covenants with Am Yisrael, which express different modes of existence. They are called the covenant of Avraham, the covenant of Yitzchak, and the covenant of Yaakov.
The covenant of Avraham describes the existence of Israel in a manner that commands respect -- "You are a prince of G-d in our midst." (Bereishit 23:5) He establishes the morning prayer, the light increases and strengthens; he is successful and prosperous in all that he does.
The covenant of Yitzchak signifies the beginning of sunset. He establishes the afternoon prayer -- "Your offspring shall be aliens in a land not theirs" (15:13), and with him the exile begins. Already in his time we encounter envy and resentment: "The Philistines envied him ... Go away from us for you have become much mightier than we!" (26:24-26)
The covenant of Yaakov is already the time of darkness and exile. Yaakov establishes the evening prayer. His entire life he sought to live in tranquility and was not allowed to.
All of the history of Israel is encapsulated in these three covenants.
The return will be in the opposite order:
"I will remember My covenant of Yaakov." Israel withstands the long and cold nights, "By day scorching heat consumed me, and frost by night." (31:40) Their descendants remain faithful, and they try to fulfill their duty to be "a light for the nations" even in their lowly state, and through their very exile and scattering they increase the light in the world.
"...and also My covenant of Yitzchak." The next stage will be recognition on the part of the nations of the world of the value of Israel. Although this will lead to hatred and envy, at least there is already consideration of Israel. The test, this time, is to know how to walk freely among the nations and not to be deterred by their opposition and envy, but to uphold the command of Avraham, to "keep the way of Hashem, doing charity and justice." (18:19)
"...and also My covenant of Avraham I will remember." After withstanding the trial, the third stage will come -- honor and esteem on the part of the nations, until they all say, "Come, let us go up to the Mountain of Hashem ... for from Zion the Torah will come forth, and the word of Hashem from Yerushalayim." (Yeshaya 2:3) Then Avraham's light will be revealed in the morning. "For behold, darkness may cover the earth ... but upon you Hashem will shine, and His glory will be seen upon you. Nations will walk by your light and kings by the brilliance of your shine ... to bring your children from afar with their gold and silver with them, for the Name of Hashem, your G-d." (60:2-3)
"and I will remember the Land." The land will undergo a similar process. There will be a great desire to steal the land, and especially the holy city of Yerushalayim, as the Ramban writes: "They will remember you from distant places, and will boast about the holy city, saying, 'It is given to us as a heritage!' But when they come to you, and will find all desirous things, they will run away as if from an enemy, while no one chases them, and the fertile and wide land will be left abandoned, for they are not worthy of you, and you are not fit for them."
"Instead of your being forsaken and despised, without wayfarers, I will make you into an eternal pride, a joy for generation after generation." (60:15) Yerushalayim undergoes three stages:
"forsaken" -- During the time of the exile: "I will make the land desolate."
"and despised" -- When Israel will already be recognized by the nations, the issue of Yerushalayim will be a source of hatred and jealousy.
"an eternal pride" -- This is the covenant of Avraham, when the nations of the world will recognize the worth of Israel and the role of Yerushalayim in imparting the Divine justice: "After that you will be called, 'City of Righteousness,' 'Faithful City." (1:26) "I will bring them to My holy mountain ... for My House will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples." (56:7)
Yeshaya concludes his sefer with this, "It shall be that at every New Moon and on every Shabbat all mankind will come to prostate themselves before Me, says Hashem." (66:23)
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