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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 29, v. 13: "V'lo itchem l'vadchem onochi koreis es habris hazose" - It is not with you alone that I make this covenant - I cannot cut confirm this covenant with you when you are "l'vadchem" each one on his own. It requires true unity. (Imrei Chaim of Viznitz)

Ch. 29, v. 28: "Hanistoros laShem Elokeinu v'haniglos lonu" - The hidden matters belong to Hashem our G-d and the hidden matters are to us - As explained by Rashi, once there was an acceptance of the responsibility to see to it that our fellow ben Yisroel follows the Torah's precepts, we are responsible one for another only for the behaviour that is outwardly visible, but not for the behaviour that is hidden. The story is told of a Chasidic Rebbe who passed on and two of his sons were vying for his vacated position. Coming to no amicable conclusion, they agreed to bring the matter in front of the venerable Rabbi of Lemberg, Rabbi Yitzchok Shmelkes, author of responsa Beis Yitzchok. Upon hearing the issue at hand he immediately responded that he would not deal with this sort of matter. The two brothers did not accept this and insisted that he resolve their dispute, claiming that it is well known that similar situations had arisen numerous times when the Rabbinical head of a community had passed on and his sons want the position, and that the issue was brought to a Rabbinical authority to sort out. If so, why would he refuse to deal with this? Rabbi Yitzchok Shmelkes responded with a smile that there was absolutely no comparison. When children of a deceased Rabbi vie for his position it can be clarified which of the disputants is more/most suited for the position through testing them in their halachic prowess, in their ability to deal with the common man, etc. However, when it comes to a "Rabbistve," the position of a Chasidic leader, it is a matter that is in the upper spheres, who is holier, etc. This is beyond our ken. This is the intention of the words of our verse. "Hanistoros laShem Elokeinu," when it is a matter of spiritual stature, this is left to Hashem, but when we are dealing with "niglos," matters that are open for us to clarify, then "lonu," it is left for us.


Ch. 31, v. 17,18: "Ha'lo al ein Elokai b'kirbi m'tzo'uni horo'os ho'ei'leh, V'onochi hasteir astir ponai " - Is it not that my G-d is not within me that has brought all these bad things to befall me, And I will surely hide My countenance - The Ramban and others ask that since this person has come to recognize that it is his lack of proper behaviour that has brought about his suffering, why is it that Hashem responds with further spiritual distancing. In a previous issue 37 answers were offered. A 38th,39th and 40th follow:

1) Take note of the sinner's not expressing himself by saying that he has forsaken Hashem and turned to other so-called powers, which is exactly what verse 16 says has taken place. Rather, he says that there is a lack of G-dliness within him, and no more. Although he does recognize that he has behaved incorrectly, he does not verbalize this is his sort of "confession." We can possibly interpret his words to mean that although he admits to wrongdoing, but the main thrust is that he accompanies it with "there is a lack of G-dliness within me," meaning that he has sinned because he was the victim of a spiritual vacuum, i.e. his family nucleus, his environment, etc., was lacking in Torah values. This is akin to the explanation offered for the similarly enigmatic verses in Vayikra 26:40,41, "V'hisvadu es avonom v'es avone avosom v'af asher holchu imi b'keri, Af ani ei'leich imom b'keri." The people confess their sins and those of their fathers, and Hashem responds negatively, that He will deal with them in a manner of happenstance, i.e. not offer Divine supervision, but instead leave them to the dangers of happenstance. The same question applies here, why such a negative response to what seems like a genuine confession. In a previous issue we offered that the insincerity of the confession in this verse lies in that the confession is not limited to one's own sins, but rather, the sins of their ancestors are also mentioned. This is likewise a confession with a major excuse. In essence, "I acted incorrectly but am not to be held responsible, as I was subject to exposure to my parents also committing these sins. It cannot be expected of me to behave properly." This is unacceptable. Since the so-called repentant claims that he is the victim of happenstance, that he was placed in a spiritually devoid environment, it is no wonder that Hashem responds in kind with "keri."

The Rambam hilchos teshuvoh 5:2 writes that a person should not accept the claims of the foolish people of foreign nations and the uneducated among our own nation, that a person is a product of his environment and is fixed in this position. Rather, no one is forced to behave in a fixed manner, to be either of a calm demeanor or an angry demeanor, stingy or overly generous, etc. Notwithstanding one's environment, he can become as righteous as Moshe Rabbeinu or as evil as Yerovom ben N'vot.

These words of the Rambam, although they appear in the 5th chapter, are not only key to, but also ground entry level to proper repentance. Once a person realizes that he has acted improperly, rather than excusing himself with the types of excuses just mentioned, he must accept the blame clearly upon himself, PERIOD. Otherwise there can be no repentance. We can similarly apply this concept to our verses. Hashem's response is again in kind. The person excuses himself because he has been placed in a circumstance of "hester ponim," of a spiritual void, and Hashem responds with further hiding of His countenance. WE MUST OWN UP TO OUR INADEQUACIES! NO EXCUSES! (n.l.)

2) The Prophet Yirmiyohu says: "Ki shtayim ro'ose ossoh ami osi ozvu m'kore mayim chaim lachatzov lo'hem borose borose nishborim asher lo yochilu hamoyim" (2:13). Yirmiyohu, in the name of Hashem bemoans the bnei Yisroel's forsaking Hashem and pursuing other so-called deities. He clearly spells out that "avodoh zoroh" encompasses two very sinful aspects, forsaking Hashem and turning to outside powers. Verse 16 says, "V'zonoh acha'rei elohei neichar ho'oretz vaazovani," - And he has turned after foreign powers of the land, and he has forsaken Me. When it comes to confession we only find mention of the lack of "my G-d within me," but no mention of turning to others. This is surely an incomplete repentance. This is spelled out in verse 18, "Ki fonoh el elohim acheirim," with no mention of forsaking Hashem, as there was confession on that. This is likewise the intention of the words, "al kol ho'ro'oh asher ossoh," ALL the bad that he has perpetrated, both aspects. (n.l.)

Either of these two interpretations can be incorporated into the words of the Ramban, who answers that we must conclude that the repentance was incomplete.

3) The person is not repenting at all. He admits that he has forsaken Hashem, but has no plans to change his ways, notwithstanding that he has been the recipient of much bad. Read these words of our verse as: "V'ONOCHI hasteir," - and when this person has hidden - forsaken - ONOCHI - the first of the Ten Commandments, to recognize that Hashem is our G-d, then Hashem's response is "astir ponai." (Rabbi Yechezkel haKohein of Radomsk)

Ch. 31, v. 18: "Ki fonoh el elohim acheirim" - Because he has turned to the gods of others - Verse 16 says, "V'zonoh acha'rei elohei neichar ho'oretz." Why the change from "zonoh" to "fonoh?" Perhaps this is because in the earlier verse it describes the person's action, which is "zonoh." If we are to differentiate between these two synonyms by saying that ZNH means to turn to a negative pursuit, while PNH means to turn, but not specifically to a positive or negative, then ZNH should be the word-form of choice in the context of both verses. However, in our verse, where Hashem's response is "V'onochi hasteir astir FONAI mei'hem," the word-form PNH is used in the manner of "loshon nofeil al loshon," the use of a word of the same sound, as Rashi comments on "n'chash hanchoshes" (Bmidbar 20:9). A better explanation would be greatly appreciated. (n.l.)



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha, Chasidic Insights and Chamisha Mi Yodei'a

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