Q. Why is a covenant called “krisas bris” or “cutting off,” when what you are actually doing is creating agreement and harmony between the partners of the treaty?
A. The Gaon of Vilna (perush on Sefer Hayetzira 1: 8) questions why the expression “Kerissas Bris,” or the severing of a pact or treaty, is the name commonly used to connote the establishing of a covenant. This term expresses an obvious contradiction. Bris means unity and oneness while Kerissa evinces cutting and separation. He explains that a true everlasting covenant, survives even when the parties separated and grew apart. It is created when the sides in agreement give away to the other something of crucial value of themselves, something they cannot and will never forget. Avraham Avinu conveys to Hashem his most valued possession, the life of his son Yitzchak; while Hashem bestows to His people His most precious asset, the Torah itself.