The Testimony of God’s Covenant

Yael Eckstein  |  March 21, 2024

A golden ark with two eagles on it.

Then he took the testimony and put it into the ark, and attached the poles to the ark, and put the atoning cover on top of the ark. Exodus 40:20 (NASB)

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. This week’s Torah portion is Pekudei, which means “counting,” from Exodus 38:21–40:38.

I want to tell you about one of the most precious things I own. It’s the tallit, prayer shawl, of my father, Fellowship Founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, of blessed memory. It reminds me of how he wrapped himself in it when he prayed.

I think of the many times when we would travel together, and he would take it out to pray. In airports, my father would find a quiet corner, and with all the hustle and bustle going on around us, he would wrap himself in his tallit to pray. When he was wrapped in his tallit with his eyes closed, I would see him disconnect from the busy airport as he connected to God.

I keep his tallit because it reminds me of him. It makes me feel close to him, makes me feel his presence. The prayers my father prayed while wrapped in that tallit also continue giving me strength to this day. For my father, that tallit was his prayer shawl. For me, it’s not just a reminder of my father, it is an important piece of his life that is still with me.

The Testimony of God’s Covenant

In this week’s Torah portion, the Tabernacle is finally fully assembled. In the innermost chamber was the Ark containing the two tablets given to Moses on Mount Sinai and inscribed with the Ten Commandments. In the verses describing the placement of the tablets in the ark, the Hebrew refers to these two tablets as ha’edut, “the testimony.”

This is a strange name if you think about it. Elsewhere, the Bible calls the tablets “the stone tablets” (Exodus 24:12, 31:18), or “the tablets of the covenant” (Deuteronomy 9:9). But here, the Bible doesn’t even use the word “tablets.” It just calls them ha’edut, “the testimony.”

The tablets were not used as a text to read or learn from. After all, they were permanently stored away in the ark, never to be opened or seen by any person. So, what was their purpose? Just like my father’s tallit for me, the purpose of the tablets was to serve as physical evidence of our encounter and relationship with God, a testimony of God’s covenant.

The tablets testified to what happened at Mount Sinai when God spoke to the entire nation of Israel. As long as the tablets were in the ark, the nation of Israel knew that a piece of what happened at Mount Sinai was still with them.

Your Turn:

Do you have a precious object that reminds you of someone you love, or of a special event in your life? Say a prayer today thanking God for that special bond.