Torah Weekly

For the week ending 4 October 2008 / 5 Tishri 5769

Parshat Vayelech

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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On this, the last day of his life, Moshe goes from tent to tent throughout the camp, bidding farewell to his beloved people, encouraging them to keep the faith. Moshe tells them that whether he is among them or not, Hashem is with them, and will vanquish their enemies. Then he summons Yehoshua, and in front of all the people, exhorts him to be strong and courageous as the leader of the Jewish People. In this manner, he strengthens Yehoshua's status as the new leader. Moshe teaches them the mitzvah of Hakhel: That every seven years on the first day of the intermediate days of Succos, the entire nation, including small children, is to gather together at the Temple to hear the King read from the Book of Devarim. The sections that he reads deal with faithfulness to Hashem, the covenant, and reward and punishment. Hashem tells Moshe that his end is near, and he should therefore summon Yehoshua to stand with him in the Mishkan, where Hashem will teach Yehoshua. Hashem then tells Moshe and Yehoshua that after entering the Land, the people will be unfaithful to Him, and begin to worship other gods. Hashem will then completely hide his face, so that it will seem that the Jewish People are at the mercy of fate, and that they will be hunted by all. Hashem instructs Moshe and Yehoshua to write down a song - Ha'azinu - which will serve as a witness against the Jewish People when they sin. Moshe records the song in writing and teaches it to Bnei Yisrael. Moshe completes his transcription of the Torah, and instructs the Levi'im to place it to the side of the Aron (Holy Ark), so that no one will ever write a new Torah Scroll that is different from the original - for there will always be a reference copy.


Cosmic Hide And Seek

"I will surely hide My face." (31:18)

Once, there was a great Rabbi who came upon a young child crying his heart out. "What's the matter, yingele?" asked the Rabbi, his eyes shining with sympathy and concern. "We were playing..." The child struggled to speak between sobs. "We were playing hide and seek...and I was the one who was supposed to go hide..." The boy looked up into the Rabbi's face. "Yes, I'm listening," said the Rabbi. "So I went and hid but...but..." The child broke down again in gales of sobs. "Tell me what happened," said the Rabbi softly. Finally, the boy managed to finish the sentence, “...but nobody came to look for me!"

After a few moments, the Rabbi smiled his warm smile and said, "You know, you shouldn't feel so bad. You're in very good company." The child heaved a little, his tears abating. The Rabbi looked into the child's eyes and continued: "You're in very good company indeed. G-d feels a lot like you. Not many people are coming to look for Him."

This world is like a cosmic game of hide-and-seek. We are given an invitation to this world; the invitation is called life. This invitation itself is a challenge: Who brought us here? Who sustains us here? What are we doing here?

To make the game more challenging and our success more meaningful and rewarding, there are various distractions and "false leads" which can take us away from the game. But our "Host" has not left us without a "crib sheet" to help us navigate this ultimate virtual adventure. He has provided a clear manual that is guaranteed to allow us to unmask Him and the purpose of our existence. This manual is called the Torah.

When we keep the Torah we see our "Host" more and more clearly. But if we don't keep the Torah, He will hide himself more and more deeply, and finding Him will be very difficult indeed.

"I will surely hide My face."

In the Hebrew language, the emphatic "to surely do" something is expressed by the repetition of the verb. In other words, the literal translation of the phrase "I will surely hide My face" is "Hide, I will hide My face."

The very structure of the Hebrew language gives us an insight into this "hiding." There are two kinds of concealment. One is a concealment where you know someone is there but you just can't see him. The other is a concealment where you don't even know if he is there at all. In this second type, the very fact of his being hidden is concealed. This is the ultimate hiding, where the very hiding is hidden.

When we are aware that G-d has “hidden” from us, He is not really concealed, because we realize that our hiding from Him has been reciprocated by His hiding from us. And so, we humble ourselves and return to Him, imploring his forgiveness. However, when the hiding is itself hidden, and we think that this is the way the world is supposed to be, then we are in big trouble because nothing awakens us to return to G-d. We think to ourselves, "This is the way things are supposed to be, isn't it?"

Ignorance, they say, is bliss. But only while we're ignorant of our ignorance. One day we will all wake up in the real "Supreme" court and we will then have to pay the price for our years of "bliss." On Yom Kippur we have a chance to shake ourselves out of our self-inflicted ignorance. A once-a-year opportunity to throw ourselves on the mercy of the King. If we search with all our hearts we will find Him.

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