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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 29, v. 9: "A'tem nitzovim" - You are standing firmly - Only as a group, "a'tem," are you guaranteed that you will be standing firmly upright. (The Holy Admor Rabbi Nochum of Tchernobel in M'ore Eina'yim)


Ch. 31, v. 17,18: "V'histarti fonay mei'hem v'hoyoh le'echol umtzo'uhu ro'ose rabose v'tzorose v'omar ba'yom hahu al ki ein Elokay b'kirbi m'tzo'uni horo'ose ho'eileh, V'onochi hasteir astir ponay ba'yom hahu al kol horo'oh asher osoh ki fonoh el elohim acheirim" - And I will hide My countenance from them and he will be as fodder and there will find him many bad happenings that will compete one with another and he will say on that day, "Because my Hashem is not within me have these bad happenings found me." And I will surely hide My countenance on that day as a result of all the bad that he has done because he has turned to gods who are strangers - A large section of these 2 verse has been brought to help facilitate the understanding of the many answers offered for the following question: If the person realizes that his lack of belief in Hashem has brought about difficulties, why does Hashem respond negatively by hiding His countenance?

1) The Rebbe Reb Bunim of Parshis'cha says that the person deserves a punishment for saying that Hashem is not with him when he is going through a difficulty, because "imo onochi b'tzoroh (T'hilim 91:15)," Hashem is with a person even during difficult times.

2) The grandson of Rebbe Boruch of Mezhibizh, who was in turn the grandson of the Holy Rebbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, burst into the study of his grandfather, Rebbe Boruch, sobbing. Rebbe Boruch asked him why he was crying so hard. The child answered, "I am playing hide and seek with my friends, and it was my turn to hide. I hid and all my friends left and are not looking for me." Rebbe Boruch said that this is Hashem's complaint in our verse. When Hashem hides Himself even slightly, even when a person recognizes that Hashem's presence is lacking, he does not search for Him, as it says in the end of our verse, "ki fonoh el elohim acheirim," he turned to other gods.

3) As the Ponis Yofos and others explain, the sin of this person is idol worship. The gemara Shabbos 88a says that at the time of the giving of the Torah, Hashem forced the bnei Yisroel to accept it by lifting Har Sinai above them and saying that if they accept the Torah, good and fine. However, if they wouldn't then they would all ch"v be buried under the mountain. Tosfos d.h. "shekofo" asks, "Since they had already willingly accepted the Torah, as indicated by their responding with 'naa'seh v'nishmo' (Shmos 24:7), what need was there for coercion?" Tosfos answers that there was a fear that they might renege after being exposed to the sight of the awesome fire. The Mahara"l of Prague is dissatisfied with this answer and explains that the coercion is not to be interpreted in the literal sense as having the mountain suspended above them, but rather to be taken in a spiritual sense. This means that Hashem exposed the bnei Yisroel to such an intense level of clarity of spirituality that they had no choice but to accept the Torah, clearly understanding the folly of rejecting it (Tiferes Yisroel chapter #31). With this concept we can say that once a person has denied Hashem and now wants to enter the path of return, Hashem, in His infinite kindness hides His countenance, meaning that He does not shower upon this person an abundance of spirituality to make the choice abundantly clear. Although this might make the return to Hashem extremely easy, it would not be considered proper teshuvoh, since it was only done because of Hashem's pouring into this person's soul an inordinate amount of exposure to His countenance, His presence. Thus by hiding His countenance, the sinner's opportunity to properly repent is maximized.

4) Although he has repented, it is by turning to false gods, "ki fonoh el elohim acheirim," that he seeks salvation. This can also be understood to mean that he has turned to the forces of nature. (Sforno)

5) He believes that he has not seriously sinned by turning to false gods, as this is only in the realm of thought. However, this is a grave sin, as when it comes to false gods, even thought is considered as an action, as per the gemara Kidushin 40a. (Binoh L'itim)

6) He only repents on the sin of thought, as is indicated by the word "b'kirbi," it has been kept inside. However, he should have repented even for action, as is indicated by the words "ki fonoh." (Tzror Hamor)

7) They only repent when hit with troubles, "Um'tzo'uhu tzoros." Therefore I will hide My countenance from them so that they may fully repent. (Tzror Hamor)

8) Although they did not fully repent as they only SAID that they were lacking, and when not seeing a change for the better they turned to false gods, nevertheless, I will hide My countenance of anger from them and accept their limited repentance. (Tzror Hamor)

9) Even when I hide My countenance from them, the "Onochi" is hidden but exists. (Baal Shem Tov)

10) Although the situation seems bad, in it is hidden the resultant good. This is the hidden in the hidden, "hasteir astir." (Baal Shem Tov)

11) Although their situation is bleak they should not have said that Hashem is not with them, "al ein Elokay b'kirbi." (Rebbe Reb Bunim)

12) They are only repenting for the most severe sin of denying Hashem, "al ein Elokay b'kirbi." They should have also repented for lesser sins. (Chasam Sofer)

13) Although they repent, it is only for the actual sin, but not for the first turn in the wrong direction, "ki fonoh." (Chasam sofer)

14) They only repent verbally, as indicated by the word "v'omar," but do not deeply and sincerely repent. (Ksav Sofer)

15) "V'onochi" is not the response of Hashem, but rather, a continuation of the words of the repentant. (Haksav V'hakaboloh)

16) The Daas Z'keinim says that a father sometimes finds it necessary to have his son severely punished. However, he cannot face seeing the punishment taking place, since he truly loves his son. This is the meaning of the "hastoras ponim." (Divrei Sho'ul)

17) They only recognize that Hashem has indeed left them, but they do not search for the reason this has happened, which is "ki fonoh." Repentance without looking for the root of the problem is incomplete. (Rabbi S.R. Hirsch)

18) They are only repenting for the sins between man and Hashem, "ki ein Elokay b'kirbi," but not for the sins between man and man. (Hadrash V'ho'iyun)

19) By repenting only for the sin of idol worship, although fully aware that they have transgressed many other sins, they equate themselves with bnei Noach (as per Rovo, "mikan modo'oh raboh l'Oreisa , gemara Shabbos 88a) who are held responsible for idol worship. If so, their repentance is not accepted, as per the medrash in parshas Haazinu, that there is no repentance for bnei Noach (see Yom Tov Selections on R.H.). If they do repent, as indicated by "ki ein ..," they show that they do consider themselves bnei Yisroel. If so they should repent for all their sins. (Klei Chemdoh)

20) It is obvious that if a person has ch"v forsaken Hashem that he has surely discarded mitzvos as well. Repentance requires that not only must the person repent for abandoning Hashem, but also for the many sins that he has committed. Our verse indicates that he is only repenting for forsaking Hashem, "ki ein Elokay b'kirbi," but not for having transgressed other precepts. (Droshos Yeshuos Yaakov on parshas Korach)

21) The sinner realizes that tribulations have come upon him because of his sinning. Thus he has a realization of Hashem's involvement in his life. This is not true "hester ponim." Because of the severity of forsaking Hashem, Hashem in turn "hasteir astir," hides from the sinner the fact that it is Hashem who has hidden His countenance, to the point that the sinner will no longer realize this. (Chidushei hoRi"m)

22) The sinner indicates by his words, "ki ein ElokAY b'kirbi," that Hashem only rules over the bnei Yisroel and not over all of mankind. (Likutei Yehudoh)

23) The Rambam in hilchos teshuvoh chapter 2 says that proper repentance requires that Hashem can testify that this person will not return to his folly of sinning. This person only repents during the period of time that he is actively suffering, "v'omar baYOM HAHU." (T'chei'les Mordechai) 24) Usually, when Hashem punishes it is punishment in kind, "modoh k'neged midoh." This creates an awareness that the punishment comes from Hashem. However, when a person sins by denying Hashem, it is most appropriate to punish him in a manner that he will not recognize the hand of Hashem involved, as he has denied Hashem's existence. This is "hasteir astir." (Boruch Taam)

25) By not recognizing that the punishments are directed by Hashem, as indicated by the repentant's saying "ki ein Elokay b'kirbi," his teshuvoh is incomplete. (Meshech Chochmoh)

26) The verse says that the bad happenings are "ro'ose rabos v'tzoros." The recipient of these punishments only responds that they are "ro'ose." By his not accepting the full depth of his punishment, and thus in turn belittling his sin, his repentance is incomplete.

27) Some attribute punishment as an automatic result of Hashem's removal of His protection. These people remove Hashem from the realm of guiding punishment. A greater level is that of one who recognizes that beyond the lack of protection there is also specific intention in sending punishment. By not recognizing this second level, Hashem responds in kind and hides His countenance even when redeeming a person from his lot. (Rabbi Borush Shimon Shnierson shlit"a)

28) When the bnei Yisroel recognize that the punishment is sent by Hashem they can easily turn the situation around with heartfelt prayer. However, for the sin of denying in Hashem, Hashem wants the punishment to be fully realized. He therefore hides the recognition that the punishment stems from Hashem, and people don't pray to be saved. (GR"A)

29) The double hiding means hiding a bit of the hiding, i.e. the punishment. It would be a greater punishment to allow the sinner to go scot-free in this world and have no portion in the world to come, "um'sha'leim l'sonov al ponov l'haavido." Instead there is punishment on this world and there will be a portion in the world to come. (Meilitz Yosher)

30) The sinner has transgressed negative precepts and also not done positive precepts. Repentance was only for the acts that were negative. Hashem responds in kind. For the inaction of not fulfilling positive commands Hashem responds in kind and does not act, and does not shine His countenance upon the repentant. (Adaptation of Binoh L'itim)

31) The punishments have brought about his recognizing that he should repent, but only after "hesteir ponim" will this process be completed. (A'yeles Ahovim Rabbi Shlomo haLevi Alkabetz)

32) The sinner has both forsaken Hashem and pursued idols. In his repentance he has only accepted Hashem, while still holding onto his belief in idols. There remains the sin of "ki fonoh." (Abarbenel)

33) He only repents when "umtzo'uhu ro'ose rabose v'tzorose," only when severe punishments come upon him, but not when soft love-taps of reproach are sent.

34) He feels that he is close to Hashem, and is just lacking a bit of warmth in his service, "ki ein Elokay b'KIRBI." However, in truth, he is far removed from proper service.

35) He does not admit that the punishment comes from Hashem, but rather, that it was happenstance, "M'TZO'UNI horo'ose ho'eileh."

36) He considers the punishments as bad, "ro'ose." In truth they come for his good, so that he repent.

37) He has not fully repented and thus with further "hester ponim" he will complete his teshuvoh process. (Ramban)

38) He still believes in his false gods. When he says "ki ein elohay b'kirbi" he is refering to his false gods who are not helping him. (Minchoh V'luloh)



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

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