Yom Yerushalaim – The Covenant of Today

After the devastating words of the tochecha, Hashem’s warning of all of the terrible things that can happen to Bnei Yisrael as a result of not following His mitzvot, Parshat Bechukotai takes a few pesukim to console us as a nation. It says that Hashem will never forget the covenant that He had made with our forefathers and that we will always be a nation to Him. However, the passuk in which Hashem relates this message to us is very enigmatic. It states:

״וזכרתי את בריתי יעקוב ואף את בריתי יצחק ואף את בריתי אברהם אזכור והארץ אזכר״
Then will I remember My covenant with Yaakov; also My covenant with Yitzchak, and also My covenant with Avraham I will remember; and I will remember the land.
(Vayikrah 26:42)

Meaning, Hashem will remember the promises that He had made to our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, and He will remember the land. There are two striking questions that stand out right off the bat.
Firstly, why are the avot mentioned in reverse order? Generally, when we see them listed, they are in chronological order; Avraham is followed by Yitzchak, who is followed by Yaakov.

In addition, what relevance does the land have here? We’re talking about Hashem guaranteeing His commitment to us after giving us a very strong musser shmooze, what could the land represent about that commitment and why mention it with the avos?

Rashi answers our first question famously. He explains that if the bris of Yaakov doesn’t have enough in it for us to rely on then we add the bris of Yitzchak, and if that isn’t enough then we add Avraham to the mix. The combined pact that all three avos made with Hashem should be enough to save our relationship with Him if necessary. Seemingly relying on the zechuot of Avraham is a last resort, it is an allocation that is only tapped into when in dire need, when the first two provisions have run out. Perhaps, following this model of Rashi, the Brit of Avraham isn’t the ultimate weapon in times of need but rather penultimate. Following Avraham’s zechut we have the land. Hashem promises not to forget the connection that we, and only we, have to His land, and with that bond we should feel confident that we will always be His people. It is the last line of defense in repairing our relationship with Hashem.

We famously say in tehillim ״אם אשכחך ירושלים תשכך ימיני״ – If I forget Jerusalem, you should forget my right hand. Interesting is the parallel, that both we, and Hashem, promise not to forget the land. He promises to remember it, and we promise not to forget Yerushalaim. The passuk ends with ,והארץ אזכר remembering the land, because the land is the final covenant, it is most sacred bond that exists between Hashem and His people. When all else fails, perhaps even the zechut of the avot, we still have the land that was promised to us. The catch is though, that we cannot forget it ourselves.

Very often we approach the holiday of Yom Yerushalaim discussing the politics of it or planning the BBQ. What we should really be reflecting on during this time is what the land represents. Not just as a hope for the future, or a symbol from the past, but as a currently living embodiment of a bond that exists. We should be thinking about our responsibility to remember Yerushalaim, and that Hashem will remember it in return in our zechus. It is a relationship that is fortified by a land of, not just the past or the future, but of today.

About the Author
Josh Lehman was born and raised in New York. He is currently learning in Yeshivat Hakotel and studying in Mechon Lev in Jerusalem.
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