God Will Remember
Yael Eckstein | May 26, 2022
I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. — Leviticus 26:42
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Bechukotai, which means “My decrees,” from Leviticus 26:3–27:34.
As a Jew who is fortunate enough to live in the modern state of Israel, it is easy for me to believe in God’s biblical promises to the people of Israel. After all, here I am, one of millions of Jews who have been ingathered from the four corners of the earth to the land of Israel after thousands of years of exile. For most of the past 2,000 years, the dream of the Jewish return to our homeland seemed just that — nothing more than a dream. As the psalmist wrote in Psalm 126:1, “When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed.”
I often think that if something that seemed so impossible and miraculous for so long is now a reality, how can I ever question anything else that God promised? As Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion famously said, “If you live in Israel and you don’t believe in miracles, you’re just not being realistic.”
God Will Remember
In this week’s Torah portion, we read about God’s commitment to keep His covenant to the people of Israel. After describing the exile of Israel as punishment for our sins, God told His children, “I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.”
Why is Jacob, the last of the patriarchs, listed first? Jacob is the only one of the three Patriarchs who went into exile after being born in the land of Israel. He is the only one who suffered in exile, as he did while living under his Uncle Laban. And when Jacob went into exile a second time, this time to Egypt, God made a promise to him that has been the hope of the Jewish people throughout our history: “I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again” (Genesis 46:4).
Jacob is the first Patriarch mentioned here because Jacob is the Patriarch who represents the Jewish experience of exile. The “covenant with Jacob” is God’s promise to always be with us in exile, and to come out of exile with us. While there are more covenantal promises yet to be fulfilled, we know with perfect faith that God will remember them, too.