Former Shaliach in New York
During the course of our parasha, Hashem speaks to Moshe, telling him to order the boarders of the Land of Israel to Bnei Yisrael. Interesting enough, when looking back at the Covenant between the Parts (Brit Bein Habetarim) and the Covenant of the Brit Milah that took place in Seifer Breishit, we find that the covenants included different descriptions of the boarders of the Land promised to Avraham. While in Brit Bein Habetarim the Land promised to the seed of Avraham runs from the river of Egypt unto the great river – the river Euphrates, the land promised to him during the Brit Milah was reduced to an obviously smaller land of Canaan.
The description of the Promised Land in each covenant is directly related to the nature of the stories surrounding them.
When trying to identify the difference between the two covenants, one might argue that the larger land promised to the seed of Avraham is mentioned after the victory over the four kings. That victory is a symbol of the greatness soon to become of the seed of Avraham, a greatness that is to shine upon all other nations of the world. However, Hashem told Avraham that such greatness shall become known only hundreds of years later, after the Egyptian enslavement is brought to an end.
On the other hand, the promise of the smaller land, the Land of Canaan, is a result of a personal and intimate relationship between Hashem and Avraham’s seed, upon which Avraham was requested to circumcise himself and his household members. This covenant was not a result of the greatness of the seed of Avraham in comparison to the other nations of the world, rather it is a result of being the chosen people who dwell in their relationship with Hashem.
This dual attribute of the Jewish people seems to be the source of a serious dilemma in Israel during the past few months, as hundreds of refugees have escaped Darfur, and crossed the boarder to Israel. While the government has been struggling and unable to provide care for the refugees, there has been an ongoing public debate as to what the correct stand should be in this matter. Opinions of all kind can be found when reading local newspapers, not skipping the halachik response either.
The obvious fear of the government and of Israeli citizens is a major influx of Non-Jewish refugees into the country, when unable to tackle our in-house issues such as our own flesh and blood poor and sick people. Some have also noted the fact that the Sudan joined the war against Israel during our first days of independence. However, do we expect ourselves, as Jews well learned of the refugee status, to overlook the reality of a suffering nation?!
This debate is the crux of the dual responsibility given to the seed of Avraham at Brit Bein Habetarim and on the occasion of the Brit Milah. On the one hand, we are expected to nurture our relationship with Hashem, that being a personal and private one to the Jewish people, excluding all others. On the other hand, we are a nation expected to be a light to all other nations – a direct result of that would be providing care for other nations in need.