“G-d Is Not In Our Midst” Is An Inappropriate Response
These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape #693, My Father’s Chumros. Good Shabbos!
In Parshas VaYelech, on the last day of Moshe Rabbeinu’s life, Moshe received the following prophetic news: “Behold, you will lie with your forefathers, but this people will rise up and stray after the gods of the foreigners of the Land, in whose midst it is coming, and it will forsake Me and annul My covenant that I have sealed with it. My anger will face against it on that day and I will forsake them; and I will conceal My face from them and they will become prey, and many evils and distresses will encounter it. It will say on that day ‘Is it not because my G-d is not in my midst that these evils have come upon me?'” [Devorim 31:16-17]
It would seem to us that these words ‘Is it not because my G-d is not in my midst that these evils have come upon me?’ would represent a positive action on the part of the people. So much of the Tochacha [Chastisement] in Parshas Bechukosai contains the refrain “And you have conducted yourself with me B’KERI [as if they w ere just matters of chance or bad luck].” It seems like this attitude on our part is itself the cause of the Almighty’s anger with us. We are not supposed to attribute personal tragedy to “statistics” or to the fact that “our number is up”.
It would seem that the reaction foretold in Parshas Vayelech (“Is it not because my G-d is not in my midst that these evils have come upon me?”) is a very positive one! If that is the case, the subsequent pasuk [verse] is very surprising. It describes the Almighty’s reaction, and reads: “But I will surely conceal My face on that day, because of all the evil that [the nation] did, for it had turned to gods of others.” [Devorim 31:18]
Why would that be? If people were doing what they were supposed to be doing and asking all the right questions of self-introspection, why would the Almighty hide His face from us? Apparently, “Is it not because my G-d is not in my midst?” is NOT the proper reaction.
The Rebbe Reb Bunim of Pshische explains why this is NOT the proper reaction. No matter how bad troubles may seem, a Jew should never say and should never feel that the Almighty has abandoned him. It is heretical to say: “G-d died in the Holocaust.” This in no way minimizes the tremendous fortitude it took for someone who went through the Holocaust to remain a full believer and “no one should judge his fellow until he has been in his place,” however theologically it is an unacceptable response to say “G-d is no longer in our midst; He is dead!”
The correct response is that G-d remains in our midst, but for some reason (perhaps not-understandable to us) He is punishing us. For this reason, according to the Rebbe Reb Bunim the reaction of the Almighty to such a statement was “I will surely hide My face on that day.”
The Gemara [Yoma 54b] states that the Cherubs atop the Ark in the Holy of Holies were male and female forms. When the Jews would fulfill the Will of the Almighty the Cherub s would embrace one another. When the Jews would not fulfill His Will, they were separated.
The Talmud states that when the Romans entered the Holy of Holies during their destruction of the Second Temple, they saw the male and female figures intertwined in an embrace and they mocked the Jews over the fact that they maintained male and female figures in intimate poses in their Holy Temple.
The commentaries question why the Cherubs would be embracing during the time of the Temple’s destruction. Superficially, we would think that there was no greater moment when “Israel did not fulfill the Will of the Almighty” than the time when He saw fit to have the Beis HaMikdash destroyed. At such a time, we would have expected to find the Cherubs separated from one another.
The answer is because at the moment the Temple was destroyed, the punishment had already been delivered. Immediately afterwards, the love of the Almighty towards us was restored. It is like when a father spanks his child. Right after administering the spanking, he embraces the child. The child may have deserved the spanking for doing something wrong, but once that debt was paid, the love of father to son is immediately made evident again.
“Behold the L-rd is not in my midst” is never our situation. The message is always “I am still with you, Klal Yisrael.”
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah portion. The halachic topics dealt with in the portion of Nitzavim- Vayelech in the Commuter Chavrusah Series are the following:
Tape # 022 – Reading Haftorah: Scrolls vs. Book
Tape # 112 – Shoteh: Mental Incompetence in Halacha
Tape # 158 – Schar Shabbos: How Do We Pay Rabbonim and Chazzanim?
Tape # 205 – Kiddush Before T’kiyas Shofar
Tape # 252 – Buying Seforim
Tape # 295 – Burying the Dead on Yom Tov Sheni
Tape # 341 – The Brachos on the T’kios
Tape # 342 – Is Building a Succah a Mitzvah?
Tape # 385 – Fasting on Rosh Hashana
Tape # 386 – Succah Gezulah
Tape # 429 – Treatment of an Invali d Sefer Torah
Tape # 473 – Seudas Siyum Mesechta
Tape # 517 – What Exactly Is Mitzva of Shofar
Tape # 561 – Lo Bashomayin He
Tape # 605 – Selling A Sefer Torah
Tape # 649 – Minhagim of the Yomim Noraim
Tape # 693 – My Father’s Chumros
Tape # 737 – Borrowing and Lending Seforim
Tape # 781 – I’m the Baal Tokeah and Not You!
Tape # 825 – The Shuls of Gaza – A Halachic Perspective
Tape # 826 – Yom Kippur: Women and the Shehecheyanu; Women and Kor’im
Tapes or a complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.
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