Nor is it with you only that I make this sworn covenant, but with him who is not here with us this day as well as with him who stands here with us this day before the Lord our God Deuteronomy 29:14-15
Is Not Here – Who isn’t there? Moses delivers an everlasting covenant commitment to those who stand before him that day – and to those who do not stand before him. Who isn’t there? The Hebrew phrase is exactly the same as the previous designation of those who are present with the addition of eynenoo (eynenoo po eemanoo) “those not with us.” In Hebrew thoughts, all generations of Israel are present in the moment the covenant is given. Heschel calls this “history in reverse: thinking of the future in the present tense.” This is a crucial difference between Hebrew and Greek thought. Our culture perceives reality in the “here and now,” but Hebrew culture is never disconnected from its past. The past is present in all its events with God. The future is present in all its promises from God. No one is absent when God speaks.
Furthermore, when Moses and the people who stood at Sinai committed themselves to “hear and obey,” they committed every subsequent generation to the same obligation. Just as the promise of God is unbreakable, so the obligation to God is unbreakable. It doesn’t matter one little bit that you and I didn’t stand there on that day, looking at the mountain shaking with the power of the Holy One. We were there anyway. We were there because we were represented in the legacy passed on to us. We were there in the blood of our ancestors who experienced the awe of God. Their obligation is our obligation – and we are held to it just as though we spoke the same words as they did. Hebrew thought is continuity of community, not individual acceptance of responsibility. As followers of the King, we have no right whatsoever to refuse the covenant obligations He placed on our predecessors.
Heschel makes the distinction absolutely clear:
“Socrates taught us that a life without thinking is not worth living. Now, thinking is a noble effort, but the finest thinking may end in futility. In thinking man is left to himself; he may soar into astral space and proclaim the finest thoughts, yet what will be the echo and what its meaning for the soul?
The Bible teaches us that life without commitment is not worth living, that thinking without roots will bear flowers but no fruit. Our commitment is to God, and our roots are in the prophetic events of Israel.”
The Bible is not a handbook of ethical action. It is a confrontation with a holy God. He demands certain responses; responses which are not always available to rational explanation. They are the product of revelation, not reasoned argument. On the day God gave the covenant to Moses, He brought all of us near to Him. We were there, standing before Him, acknowledging His right to rule over us as He sees fit. Woe to the one who pushes aside such an obligation, brought about by blood and tears, made available to him through the countless generations of followers who sacrificed in order that the covenant might pass from generation to generation. Woe to the one who says, “I am not obligated. I was not there.” Woe to the one who does not see himself standing with the people of the Lord, who does not recognize his soul in the loins of his ancestors. He is truly lost, cast adrift without an anchor in God’s promises. The God of the covenant requires something of us – and we who follow Him rejoice that this promise is extended to asher eynenoo po eemanoo hayom (those not standing here with us today).
Topical Index: is not here, eynenoo po eemanoo, covenant, obligation, Deuteronomy 29:15
 Abraham Heschel, “The Moment at Sinai,” in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity, p. 15.
 Heschel, p. 16