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וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי כֹּרֵת בְּרִית נֶגֶד (Exodus 34:10)

And Targum translates similarly:

"וַאֲמַר הָא אֲנָא גְזַר קְיַם"

Why כֹּרֵת relatively to the covenant end up being interpreted as "making" when it has always been used in the Tanakh in a sense of cutting off?

  • 2
    Welcome to MiYodeya Israel and thanks for this first question. Can I recommend you take the tour to get a sense of how the site works? Great to have you learn with us! – mbloch Mar 10 at 10:09
  • For example in English, you "cut" a check ... – Shalom Mar 10 at 10:22
  • I don’t understand the close votes. Surely this is Hebrew language as pertains to Judaism. – DonielF Mar 10 at 17:53
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Rashi to Genesis 15:10 explains that it was the custom of those making a covenant to split an animal into pieces, and to then pass between the pieces.

Rashi also refers us to Jeremiah 34:18-19 where this practice is explicitly mentioned:

וְנָתַתִּי אֶת־הָאֲנָשִׁים הָעֹבְרִים אֶת־בְּרִתִי אֲשֶׁר לֹא־הֵקִימוּ אֶת־דִּבְרֵי הַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר כָּרְתוּ לְפָנָי הָעֵגֶל אֲשֶׁר כָּרְתוּ לִשְׁנַיִם וַיַּעַבְרוּ בֵּין בְּתָרָיו׃

I will make the men who violated My covenant, who did not fulfill the terms of the covenant which they made before Me, [like] the calf which they cut in two so as to pass between the halves.

Thus, idiomatically one talks of “cutting” a covenant, referencing the old practice of cutting up an animal as a way of binding the parties to the covenant.

  • And Brit bein habesarim – Lo ani Mar 10 at 12:27
  • You nailed it with the exact quote! – Al Berko Mar 10 at 16:09
  • But Interestingly, what's the rationale for this the ancient tradition? Why G-d did it to Avraham - it seems pagan to me. – Al Berko Mar 10 at 16:11
  • @AlBerko they say in the name of the gra on sefer yetzirah that it is to show that in order to properly enter into a bond with another person, you must cut off something from yourself – Moshe Steinberg Mar 10 at 17:23
  • @MosheSteinberg A noble idea, and you cut what... fingernails? hair? oh, animals! Does it mean like בל תשחית and you're sorry to waste the meat? – Al Berko Mar 10 at 17:31

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