The Purpose of Creation: Revelation of Hashem’s Hidden Presence – Netzavim/Vayeilech 5777

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Machon Daniel Torah Weekly

“To Stir the Mind and to Light up the Shabbos”!

Parshas Netzavim/Vayeilech



The Purpose of Creation: Revelation of Hashem’s Hidden Presence

“הנסתרות לה’ אלקינו והנגלות לנו ולבנינו עד עולם לעשות את כל דברי התורה הזאת” (דברים כט:כח)

“The hidden things are with Hashem our G-d and the revealed (parts of the Torah) are for us and our children forever to fulfill all of the words of this Torah” (Devorim 29:28)

We have already discussed the difficulty in this passage, that if“הנסתרות לה’ אלקינו” / “The hidden things are with Hashem our G-d”, meaning that they are not within our grasp of our understanding and responsibility, why is it necessary for the Torah to tell us this, as the Torah is a guidebook for man to fulfill his obligations!?

It appears that we can explain, with G-d’s help, as follows: Although G-d created the world and in doing so He showed the world a sampling of His great powers, He left His Presence hidden. Thus, He created the world with the name “אלקים” as it states“בראשית ברא אלקים את השמים ואת הארץ” / “At first Elokim created the heavens and the earth” which represents G-d’s creation of a world limited and guided by a set of laws referred to as nature, while hiding the Source of these laws.

However, we must ask, if G-d’s will is that His creations should recognize Him and the good He bestows upon the world, why did He “hide” Himself inside His creation!?

The commentators explain that He did so in order that the efforts a person puts forth to search for Hashem in the world and in his personal life bring him eternal spiritual reward that he would not have been able to achieve if Hashem had outwardly revealed Himself to man. And how does man reveal Hashem’s presence in the world? Through the learning of His Torah and fulfillment of its mitzvos!

With this, we can understand the reading and the meaning of“הנסתרות לה’ אלקינו והנגלות לנו ולבנינו עד עולם”. That is, through the fulfillment of Hashem’s mitzvos which are “והנגלות לנו ולבנינו” / “the revealed (parts of the Torah) are for us and our children” we bring about the revelation of the hidden parts of the Torah and the Presence of Hashem in the world.

This is as it’s written in the story of Creation “וירא אלקים… כי טוב” / “and Hashem saw that it is good and complete”. That is, the true “good”, meaning the possibility of the revelation of Hashem, is found in every single strand of Creation! From the above we learn that the learning of Torah and the fulfillment of its mitzvos cast a spiritual light on the world which allow man to see the Hand of Hashem behind the Creation and the running of the world! This is as we find in Chagiga (12a) Rebbi Elazar said the light that Hashem created on the first day of creation, man used it to see from one side of the world to the other. Since Hashem saw that future generations would stray from Hashem’s ways, He hid this light from them. For whom did He hide this light? For the righteous people who will live at the end of days.

The commentaries explain that even though the Gemora tells us that this spiritual light was hidden until the end of days when it will be revealed to the righteous, the righteous of each generation are able to connect to some extent with this light and see deeply into the spiritual recesses of this world. Now, since this spiritual light emanates from the Holy Torah, we too, through sincere and concentrated effort to learn the Torah and to full its mitzvos for Hashem’s sake will merit to see with this hidden light! And with this we can see Hashem’s hand in the world!

Nissan 5777

Receiving Hashem’s Blessings: It May Create a Need to Repent!!

והיה כי יבואו עליך כל הדברים האלה הברכה והקללה אשר נתתי לפניך והשיבות אל לבבך בכל הגוים אשר הדיחך ה’ אלקיך שמה. ושבת עד ה’ אלקיך…” (דברים ל:א))

“And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have given before you, and you will return to your heart while you are in the midst of all the nations to which Hashem your G-d has cast you to there. And you shall repent and return to the Lor-d your G-d…” (Devorim 30:1-2)

The wording is difficult to understand! While I can recognize the need to do teshuva for those actions which bring upon a person a “curse”, meaning a punishment from Hashem, but why would a person have to repent for receiving Hashem’s “blessing“!? Apparently, the opposite would be expected of man, to recognize that the blessing he received comes from Hashem and to thank Him for it!?

We can learn the answer to our question from the latter words in our posuk “והשיבות אל לבבך בכל הגוים אשר הדיחך ה’ אלקיך שמה” / “and you will return to your heart while you are in the midst of all the nations to which Hashem your G-d has cast you there”. That is, it is referring to Jews who live amongst the nations and who have received Hashem’s blessings of good health, sustenance, etc. Why do these people need to repent!? For they ignored the fact that living among the nations is not a blessing but a curse. From here we learn that a blessing given not into proper place is actually a curse. (Maybe this was the intent behind Balak’s advice to Bilaam to move to “another place” (Bamidbar 23:13, 27) in order to curse the Jewish people). And this is the idea of a mitzvah which stems from a sin which is considered a sin, even though in actuality a mitzvah was performed.

From here, those who live amongst the goyim are not truly living with blessing, but quite the opposite, and it is upon them to fulfill the words of our posuk “and you will return to your heart while you are in the midst of all the nations to which Hashem your G-d has cast you to there. And you shall repent and return to the Lor-d your G-d…” and return to Eretz Yisrael, regarding which it is written“ארץ אשר ה’ אלקיך דורש אותה תמיד עיני ה’ אלקיך בה מרשית השנה עד אחרית שנה” / “A land which the Lor-d your G-d searches it continuously; the eyes of the Lor-d your G-d are upon it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year” (Devorim 11:12).

This is the meaning of “ושבת עד ה’ אלקיך” / “And you shall repent and return to the Lor-d your G-d…” as the sages explain (Kesubos 110b) that one who lives outside of Eretz Yisrael is considered as though he lives without a G-d…  and it is upon him to return to Eretz Yisrael – to Hashem his G-d!

Elul 5777

The Gift of Teshuva is Given from the Merciful Heart of the Ruler of the World

“ושבת עד האלקיך… ושב האלקיך את שבותך ורחמך…” (דברים ל:ב-ג)

“And you shall repent and return until Hashem your G-d… and Hashem your G-d shall return your repentance and have mercy on you” (Devorim 30:1-2)

The posuk seems to be teaching us that although an individual repents and returns to Hashem in fulfillment of “ושבת עד ה’ אלקיך“, from the following words in the posuk “ושב ה’ אלקיך את שבותך ורחמך” / “and Hashem your G-d shall return your repentance and have mercy on you” it appears that this repentance alone is insufficient in order to raise the person back to where he stood before he sinned, but that he is in need of Hashem’s merciful help to fully correct himself.

And so we find that even one who is clean of sin is unable to combat the evil inclination without Hashem’s help as the sages teach us (Kedushin 30b) Rebbi Yitzchok said a person’s evil inclination assaults him anew each and every day as the posuk states “רק רע כל היום” / “only bad all the day” (Bereishis 6:5). Rebbi Yehoshua the son of Levi said a person’s evil inclination overcomes him anew each and every day and looks for the opportunity to kill him as it states “צופה רשע לצדיק ומבקש להמיתו” / “The wicked one waits (in ambush) of a righteous person and desires to kill him” (Tehillim 37:32) and if not for the fact that Hashem helps him, he would not be able to push off the evil inclination (meaning he would succumb to his pleadings and fall to sin and be subject to the resulting punishment). And so the posuk states“אלקים לא יעזבנו בידו”  / “Hashem will not leave him (the righteous person) in his (the evil inclination’s) hands” (ibid 37:33).

The sages are referring to a righteous person who has not yet sinned and even so needs Hashem’s help to ward off the attacks of the evil inclination. However, in our posuk we are dealing with a person who has sinned and has now decided to repent and to uproot his attachment to the sin and its negative residue and he is need of much more help than the protection needed for one who has not yet sinned, and therefore surely he is in need of Hashem’s merciful Hand to help him complete his repentance until the original sin and its effects are completely erased!

This can be compared to a person wearing a clean white shirt who is standing next to a bottle of black ink. Right now, he has only to watch that the ink does not spill on his shirt. However, here as well he needs heavenly assistance so that he, accidently, or another person even maliciously, doesn’t spill the ink on him. However, if the ink has already spilled onto his shirt causing a deep-seated stain, he will not be able to remove the stain without the help of a specially prepared chemical mixture formulated to remove difficult stains.

And so it is regarding spiritual stains, called sins! Before a person sins, he has to be careful not to sin and thereby stain his soul. To accomplish this, he also needs Hashem’s help and guidance. However, once one sins and by doing so imbeds a spiritual stain deep into his soul, in order to remove the stain he is in need of a great amount of heavenly help! But even in this case, if he sincerely wants to change his ways and rid himself of his sins  and its effects, Hashem will help him as we mentioned above, and as the prophet Yishaya states לכו נא ונוכחה יאמר ה“אם יהיו חטאיכם כשנים, כשלג ילבינו, אם יאדימו כתולע כצמר יהיו” / “Go and see said Hashem, if your sins will be (as red) as scarlet, they will be whitened as snow; if they are red as a worm, they will be (whitened) as wool” (Yishaya 1:18).

The above is quite logical, for a person who sins and falls spirituality limits his ability to attach himself to spiritually. Therefore, even if he manages to raise himself to the point of teshuva, it does not mean that he can return himself to his original level of holiness.

A proof of this is the case of Adam Harishon. After he sinned, even though he repented before Hashem for 130 years, he did not merit to return back to Gan Eden as its written“ויגרש את האדם וישכן מקדם לגן עדן את הכרובים ואת להט החרב המתהפכת את דרך עץ החיים” / “And He removed Adam (from Gan Eden) and He placed east of Gan Eden the Keruvim and the fire of the revolving sword in the path of the tree of life” (Bereishis 3:24). Rashi explains the fiery sword was placed there in order to scare Adam from attempting to re-enter Gan Eden. Only when Hashem expresses His full mercy and fully cleanses man of his sins will we merit to return to Gan Eden!

The posuk continues ““ושב וקבצך מכל העמים אשר הפיצך ה’ אלקיך שמה / “And he will return and gather (all the Jewish people) from all the nations to which Hashem your G-d has sent you there”. What is this posuk referring to? It comes to teach us of the exceedingly great mercy of Hakadosh Baruch Hu. For here we are dealing with Jews who have been lost among the nations and their cultures, however in their hearts they guard a yearning to return to their people. And here Hashem promises to return these people back to the fold. In addition,  even those who have completely assimilated among the goyim until their hearts have become blocked from feeling any connection to the Jewish people, also they Hashem will save from oblivion, as the posuk states “ומל ה’ אלקיך את לבבך ואת לבב זרעך לאהבה את ה’ אלקיך בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך למען חייך” / “And Hashem your G-d will do bris mila/circumcision  on your heart and the heart of your offspring (and in doing so will bring you and your offspring) to love Hashem your G-d will all your heart and with all your soul for your life”

Menachem Av 5777

The True Value of a Mitzvah is Dependent upon the Quality of One’s Speech and the Sincerity of His Heart

כי קרוב אליך הדבר מאד בפיך ובלבבך לעשותו (דברים ל:יד)

“For the thing (the mitzvah) is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart to do it” (Devorim 30:14)

Now, if we are concerned with the doing of the mitzvah – “לעשותו“, why does the posuk mention beforehand “בפיך ובלבבך” / “in your mouth and in your heart”!?

From here we learn that the value of a mitzvah a person performs is dependent on the quality of his speech and the sincerity of his heart which precede the action. “בפיך” / “in your mouth” is referring to the learning of the laws associated with the particular mitzvah, as the posuk states “ולמדתם אותם את בניכם לדבר בם” / “And you shall teach them (the laws of the Torah) to your children to speak in them” (Devorim 11:19). Similarly it states “ועתה כתבו לכם את השירה הזאת ולמדה את בני ישראל שימה בפיהם / “And now, write for yourselves this song and teach it to the Jewish people; place it in their mouths” (ibid 31:19). “ובלבבך” refers to the heart’s desire to fulfill the mitzvah and its willingness to fulfill it according to all its particular laws. (The spelling of “לבבך” with a double letter Beis hints to these two intentions: one, the willingness to do the mitzvah and two, the willingness to fulfill the particular laws of the mitzvah.)

Now, apparently “בלבבך” / “in your heart” should have been written before “בפיך” / “in your mouth” for the thoughts of one’s heart precede the utterings of his mouth. This, as the posuk states elsewhere “ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם” / “and you shall not follow after your hearts and after your eyes” (Bamidbar 15:39) mentioning the heart before the eyes!?

It appears that the Torah is teaching us here an important tenant in G-d’s holy work. That is, the yearnings of the heart are dependent on one’s speech. Meaning, Torah learning widens and motivates the heart to desire to fulfill Hashem’s commandments. This idea is brought in the Sefas Emes (Parshas Netzavim year 5633, in the Medrash) who says that “בפיך” means that speech is the driving force behind one’s achievement in Hashem’s work. And when the heart is loaded with Torah learning it is prompted to fulfill Hashem’s mitzvos, and thus the posuk concludes “לעשות” – “to do”!

This idea is quite understandable, for the words of the Torah emanate from Hakadosh Baruch Hu and logically speaking their study will inspire a person to attach himself to the sore of those words.

However, all this applies only when one learns the Torah and accepts upon himself to fulfill its mitzvos as a G-dly command. Otherwise, studying Torah will not inspire a person to fulfill its commandments. This is as it’s written “והיו הדברים האלה אשר אנכי מצוך היום על לבבך”
/ “And these words which I command you today shall be on your heart” (Devorim 6:6).
“הדברים האלה” / “these words” are referring to the words of Torah and is parallel to “בפיך” / “in your mouth” in our posuk. “אשר אנכי מצוך” / “which I command you” refers to the Torah as a heavenly command, and “על לבבך” / “on your heart” is parallel to that which it says in our posuk “ובלבבך” / “in your heart”. That is, only if one learns Torah as a command from G-d will that learning influence the heart to yearn to fulfill Hashem’s commandments.

Regarding this the sages (in Kedushin 31a) have said, greater is a person who is commanded to perform a mitzvah than a person who is not commanded to perform a mitzvah. Tosfos explain that one who is not commanded to perform a mitzvah, if he wants to perform the mitzvah he will do so and if not he will refrain from doing it. This demonstrates a weakness of heart!

In addition, we can learn from here that a person’s actions only find favor in Hashem’s eyes when he has prepared his speech and his heart before he performs the action. It appears that the explanation for this is that each fulfillment of a mitzvah has the status of a new-born child. Just as the spiritual quality of the child is determined by his parents thoughts and actions which led to his birth, so too the spiritual value of one’s actions are dependent on how much he invested in his Torah learning and the resulting desires of his heart, as they are the “parents” of his actions!   

Nissan 5777

Good Shabbos!

Yona Vogel

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