Friday, September 21, 2012

Nitzavim 5632 First Ma'amar (second half)

Note: Even though this ma'amar appears in Nitzavim in the Sfas Emes, I've chosen to send out the second half of it this week since it explains pesukim from VaYeilech. 

In this week's parsha, parshas VaYeilech, God tells Moshe Rabbeinu that in the future, as a result of our sins God's anger will flare, "... והסתרתי פני מהם ... ומצאוהו רעות רבות וצרות/… and I will hide My countenance from them … and many evils and calamities will befall them …" (Devarim 31:17) In the very next pasuk God repeats, "ואנוכי הסתר אסתיר פני .../Ad I will certainly hide my countenance …" (Devarim 31:18)  Why the repetition?

Why does the Torah bother to tell us that God will hide His countenance from us?  Why doesn't the pasuk simply say that God's anger will flare and many evils and calamities will befall us?  The Torah is teaching us a fundamental idea about God's relationship with us especially during times of calamity.

The Torah is teaching us that God is always with us even in the darkest times.  During those times we do not perceive His presence.  He is hidden from us.  The idea that God is always with us no matter what is happening is very encouraging and the Torah encourages us to strengthen this belief.
However, it is not easy to believe that God is with us even as we are living through bad times.  The first pasuk above continues, "... ואמר ביום ההוא הלא על כי אין א-להי בקרבי מצאוני הרעות האלה/… (The nation) will say on that day, 'Isn't it because my God is not in my midst that these evils have befallen me." (Devarim 31:17)  The Chiddushei HaRim[1] quoting the Rav of Parshischa says that this is considered a sin.  In answer to this faulty reasoning and lack of faith God answers and repeats, " that it is not because He is not with us that these evils have befallen us.  He is always with us but has hidden Himself.

This is the reason we find in the first pasuk of last week's parsha, "אתם נצבים כולכם לפני ה' א-להיכם .../You are standing, all of you, before God, your Lord …" (Devarim 29:9)  After the curses and rebukes of the previous parsha, parshas Ki Savo, Moshe Rabbeinu encourages the nation by telling them that they are still standing before God.  He has not abandoned us and He will not abandon us.  The curses are no more than God hiding His countenance from us.  Our challenge is to cultivate the belief that God is with us even when we do not perceive Him.  May we merit it!        

[1] Chiddushei HaRim VaYeilech, on this pasuk

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