By Rabbi Pinchas Winston
This class continues from Parshas Netzavim.
This week we also read Parashas VaYailech. As Rashi points out (Devarim
31:1), this parsha begins on the very last day of Moshe's life, the seventh
day of the Jewish month Adar, 120 years to the day that Moshe was born. As
Moshe says, "I was born on this day and I must die on this day" (Sota 13b).
From this the Talmud points out that righteous people merit to live out a
complete life because they live every moment to its fullest.
In the midst of this parsha, the concept of "hester panim" is introduced
(Devarim 31:18). It is the punishment of punishments for straying from
"... They shall be devoured, and many evils and distresses will occur to
them, until they will say that day, 'Are not these evil things happening to
us because our G-d is not with us?' And I will surely hide My face that
day, because of all the evil they have done by turning after other gods."
Hmmmmm. Sounds familiar, people asking, "Where is G-d? ... How could this
happen in G-d's world? ... etc." Yet, again, the Torah anticipated such
questions, and recorded them for all generations to read, and learn, and
understand, and say, "Are we not that generation being spoken about here?
Maybe we ought to try to repair the breach and 'allow' G-d to once again
reveal His face."
Yet, we don't do it. Millions of Jews reject the Torah without ever having
read it from cover-to-cover. Millions of Jews accept the Torah as a book of
ancient wisdom, but reject the notion of its Divine authorship, without
having ever read Rashi, or the Talmud, or after ever having taken the time
to find out how we know that the Torah and the Oral Law came from G-d. And
millions of others take G-d's seemingly apparent "absence" from history as
a sign that G-d just doesn't care anymore what we do with our lives, and
then go ahead and play G-d by carving out their own reasons for existence,
moral or not.
The Torah, and Moshe Rabbeinu, dealt with that question too:
"For I know your rebellion, and your stiff neck; behold, while I am yet
alive with you this day you have been rebellious against G-d-how much more
so will this be the case after my death!" (Devarim 31:27)
Spoken like a true prophet.
Perhaps this is why these parshios come up just before Rosh Hashanah and
Yom Kippur, which, when taken seriously, can't help but act like some kind
of "deep heat" therapy to reduce our stiff necks. How many alarms have to
go off before we wake up from our spiritual slumber to history and our
It's a tough question to answer, but answer it we must. Taking initiative
to know Torah better, and to act as bridge between Torah and the
unaffiliated Jew is an important first step to positively answering this
question. There's a lot of stiff necks out there these days, in need of
some very good spiritual therapists.
Have a great Shabbos,
Chasiva v'Chasima Tova
Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston
and Project Genesis, Inc.
Rabbi Winston is a teacher and Author.
Rabbi Winston has authored fourteen books on Jewish philosophy
(hashkofa). If you enjoy Rabbi Winston's Perceptions on the
Parsha, you may enjoy many of his books.