Torah Fax

Friday, September 7 , 2007 - 24 Elul, 5767 

Torah Reading: Nitzavim - Vayelech (Deuteronomy 29:9 - 31:30)
Candle Lighting: 7:00 PM
Shabbat ends: 7:59 PM
Pirkei Avot Chapter 5 - 6

No Secrets

In this week's parsha, Moses addresses the Jewish people in a rather cryptic fashion that has engendered many diverse interpretations:


Moses exhorts the Jewish people who are about to enter the Promised Land and who have just entered into a covenant with G‑d:


 "The hidden things are for G‑d, our G‑d, but the revealed things are for us and for our children forever, to fulfill all the words of this Torah."


What did Moses mean when he referred to the "hidden" and "revealed" things?"


According to Rashi, whose commentary is dedicated to the p'shat, or straightforward, simple meaning of the text, Moses' words related to the covenant G‑d made with the Jewish people that imposed responsibility and liability of the actions of one Jew for all others. This imposition of responsibility for the sins of others raises a question. What are we to do when a person sins in his or her heart and harbors an idolatrous thought? How can we be held responsible for what someone might think or feel? What hope is there for us if we are held accountable for even an individual who has harbored evil thoughts?


In response to these questions, Moses says: "The hidden things in a person's mind are indeed for G‑d (to deal with privately), but the revealed things (where people's sins are known) are for us and for our children forever (to deal with, and enact justice), to fulfill all the words of this Torah."


In other words, while we are indeed responsible for each other's behavior; we are not responsible for what others think and feel. That is between them and G‑d.


According to the Alshich, a sixteenth century Biblical commentator, in this verse Moses responds to a basic question as to why the Torah only mentions reward and punishment in this world and not the reward and punishment for the soul in the afterlife. The answer conveyed by the aforementioned verse is: "These rewards are hidden and only G‑d can know them. By contrast, the physical rewards and punishments are revealed to us and our children." They are therefore more effective as motivators since they are clearly visible and knowable to all.


Chassidic thought adds another dimension to the Torah's description of the "hidden" and the "revealed." It explains that the "hidden" refers to the intellect and emotions that are the hidden catalysts for all of our physical or "revealed" activities.


And here the question arises as to which of these areas of expression is more important? Is it more important to think and feel like a Jew? Or, perhaps, is G‑d more interested in the way we behave?


Our original verse—"The hidden things are for G‑d, our G‑d, but the revealed things are for us and for our children forever, to fulfill all the words of this Torah"—addresses this very issue.


Yes, indeed, the "hidden things", i.e., the inner faculties of the soul are more spiritual and G‑dly, but the ultimate goal of creation is to make a dwelling place for G‑d within the physical world by performing actions that are revealed to all.


This sheds light as to why we are responsible for each others actions (Rashi's "simple" explanation). Since we are all charged with the same mission of transforming this world into a dwelling for G‑d through our actions, a lack of spiritual awareness of one individual does not impact that strongly on the well being of others. Even if one is totally devoid of any understanding and feeling for G‑d, that will only affect that individual's personal relationship with G‑d. It will not significantly undermine society's collective effort in making the world a hospitable place for G‑d. It does not frustrate G‑d's plan for creation as long as our actions are intact.


Thus we are held responsible for each other's actions, because one individual's actions could undermine the general purpose of creation that affects everyone.


This approach also illuminates the explanation of the Alshich that the verse addresses the fact that all rewards mentioned in the Torah are physical. The reason the Torah discusses the physical rewards and punishments and not the spiritual ones is because, in truth, they are not rewards in the strict sense of the word. They are the direct consequences of our actions that attest to their viability. The reward in this world is a barometer of the efficacy of our actions; showing that they truly have an impact on the world.


When leading a Torah life leads to a good physical life, it is a demonstration that there is no dissonance between the spiritual and the physical. And to bring about harmony between the physical and spiritual is indeed the very goal and objective of creation. The spiritual rewards, by contrast, are not visible within the realm of the physical world, and they, therefore, do not relate as closely to our mission to transform the physical realm.


This objective to bring peace between the spiritual and physical that is accomplished primarily by adherence to the practical commandments will be fully realized with the coming of Moshiach. At that time we will see all negative divisions and barriers disappear and true peace will reign in all of the areas that have eluded us in the past. The means to achieving this goal is through our commitment to the down-to-earth Torah directives that are revealed for all to see. By following the revealed we will ultimately witness unfolding of the heretofore hidden dimensions of G‑dly light.     



Moshiach Matters       

In the Book of Exodus we read that G‑d told Moses, "I will also fulfill the promise I made with them, to give them the land of Israel." To whom did G‑d make a promise to give the Land of Israel? To Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. How will G‑d fulfill His promise to our forefathers? In the days of Moshiach our forefathers, together with all other Jews will be resurrected, and will behold the realization of G‑d's promise to them. (Yalkut Shemoni)


Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit  

© 2001- 2007 Chabad of the West Side