“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Thus begins a covenant made by the leaders of that new experiment in liberty. Representatives from 12 of the 13 new states came together and crafted a document signed in Philadelphia on May 1787.
Our Torah is also a covenantal document. While the Constitution is for the nation called the United States, the other is the Constitution of the Jewish People. As with the Constitution of the United States, Torah has amendments. We call them commentaries, midrashim and Takanot. Indeed the Talmud might be viewed as amendments to Torah. No matter how we call them or what we deem are their origins, they serve the same function as amendments and judicial interpretations. As with the Constitution of the United States, Torah is interpreted and argued and lauded loudly or with quiet pride by we who are signatories to it.
In this potion of our constitution, our Torah, we discover the manner in which we sign our constitution, sign on to our Torah. Unlike the original signatories to the Constitution of the United States, who wrote with quill and ink, we sign our constitution in blood. In our parsha there is outlined for us the way for every generation to sign on and to carry a sign on our bodies. That tradition has been carried on by Jews around the world throughout every generation Indeed the words “to cut a contract” may originate with Avram and Yitzhak (we should remember that Yishmael also, was a signatory of blood to the covenant). That is how we signed our covenant our constitution, we signed in blood taken from a symbol of the lineage of our legacy (Gen 17:-15). And just as with the constitution of the United States, we Jews have struggled in modern times to make interpretations of equality for women in the signing of the contract. We call the signing of the constitution by men; Brit Milah, the constitution of circumcision. For women there are many names, including Brith Bat, the woman’s constitution and, my favorite, Brit Levanah, the constitution of the moon.
The United States is celebrating our constitution as we make history by electing the first African American President of the United States. We are justifiably proud of ourselves. In Judaism with every child we celebrate the chance that history will be made. But, as an American I ask the question, what do we know of our Constitution. I suggest that, as citizens we should all take a look, periodically at parts of the Constitution and engage in discussions and spirited debates. As Jews I suggest that we take a look, periodically at parts of the Jewish Constitution, the Torah and engage in discussions and spiritual debates. That is the purpose of my little weekly messages. They are the starting point for exploration into our spiritual constitution, the one signed so long ago by the family who heeded the call to ‘get going’.