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'The things that are hidden are G-d's. The things that are revealed are for us and our children forever, to carry out all the words of the Torah' (29:28)
This section climaxes the Book of Deuteronomy, on the day of Moses' death (c.f. Rashi to 29:9). After the blessings and the curses of the previous Parasha, Moses assembled the Israelites to renew the covenant with G-d. The original covenant at the time of the Giving of the Torah was that if the Israelites would serve Him and keep His Commandments, they would be a 'treasured people' (Ex. 19:5). They indeed responded with: 'We shall do all that G-d tells us' (Ex. 19:7). Now it was time to renew that commandment: 'in order to establish you today as a people to Him, and He be G-d to you' (29:14). And the terms of that Covenant were extended with something not explicitly mentioned at Mount Sinai: 'that things that are revealed, are for us and our children to observe this Torah' (29:28). Rashi explains that the Israelites are not only responsible for their own shortcomings, but (as the Ohr Hachayim expands at length), also for what is 'revealed to us' - the shortcomings of others. By the terms of this covenant, all Israelites were in addition obliged to help each other observe the Torah, and prevent each other from violating the Torah.
Thus Rashi understands the above words as referring to idolatry and willful sin. He renders the verse as 'Sins committed in utter secrecy are known only to G-d. But we and our descendants must safeguard the integrity of Israel against sins committed openly'. The Ramban adds that 'what is hidden is G-d's' also applies to those who sin in genuine error - that sin 'belongs to G-d' in that He does not hold it against the person concerned.
Elsewhere, (in his comment to Psalms 87:6) Rashi explains the verse as referring to the distant future. 'What are hidden' refer to Israelite descendants that are so deeply assimilated among other people that they are no longer aware of their origins. When the final redemption comes, these 'hidden' people will be restored and reunited to the Israelite people.
It seems that it may also be possible to explain the verse on a more individual level. The brunt of Moses' final warnings is against idolaters and willful sinners. In Moses' generation, the Israelites contacted G-d at an intense level. They were wilderness wanderers dependent of His munificence: idolatry and sin were not the norm. However, they would be on the cards again once they were to lose that degree of divine connection following Moses' death, and become involved in the secular issues in establishing themselves in Canaan.
But not all the time. Sometimes G-d would appear to be 'turning His face' (31:18) from us, and our keeping of the Torah would be powered by its teachings and our faith. These occasions would be nistarot - occasions when He is hidden.
But even today, there are times when we as individuals perceive G-d - niglot - revealed, as in my own story below…
Soon after my Aliyah (immigration to Israel) as a single man, I suffered a cash-flow crisis. I was fortunate in finding employment teaching at Tel Aviv University at the beginning of August, but then found out that my first salary payment would not come through until October, and I did not have sufficient cash after paying my landlord to last out. In fact I hitch-hiked to and from work to spin out the cash. Finally, the crisis hit. One Thursday in mid-September, I got back to Jerusalem with the total cash resources of one silver five-shekel coin.
Having no choice, I took a short walk from the Jerusalem central bus station to a good friend who managed a free-loan fund (g'mach).
He answered the door with: 'Where have you been? I've been trying to get hold of you all day?'
It turned out that this gentleman needed me for a colleague in kolel. Of Sephardi background, he had been hired by an Ashkenazi synagogue outside Israel to lead the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services and wanted to learn the right tunes (nussach). Time was running out. He could well-afford to pay. Would I help?
'Would he pay at the end of each lesson'. My friend phoned: 'Of course! Tell him to come over at once'.
The last five shekels got me to his home in Ramot, on the western edge of Jerusalem. The rest - happily - is history…
So it just so happened that my friend learnt in kolel. It just so happened that he had to travel over the Yamim Noraim and had not found someone to teach him the tunes for leading the services. It just so happened that I approached the right place at the right moment and was ushered into the house as a gallant rescuer rather than a supplicant. And it also just so happened that he agreed to pay me by the lesson…
The yad hashem - Hand of G-d - was clear and apparent.
So ve-haniglot - 'what is revealed' means as follows. When we perceive Him in any form, we must remember the experience, write it down, share it with others, and enable it to be passed to future generations - in order to promote 'the keeping of the Torah'.
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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