August 7, 2015
Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ
If you do good things do you expect a reward? When you act badly do you anticipate punishment?
If you answered yes to those questions our Torah portion this week is for you!
I was asked by a bat mitzvah student what the difference is between commandment, mitzvah, and covenant, berit. I explained that commanded mitzvot are ethical acts we are ordered to fulfill, while covenant, berit, is a kind of sacred contract, an agreement we make with God: if we do this, then God will do that. A covenant can include mitzvot, but essentially it is a deal, a quid pro quo. It limits us to a course of action that is specified in the contract, the berit—and oddly, it also limits God, who is stuck doing whatever it is God promised us if we stuck to the rules.