Subscribe to a Weekly Series

Posted on August 26, 2002 (5762) By Rabbi Pinchas Winston | Series: | Level:

Friday Night:

I will certainly have concealed (haster astir) My face on that day because of all the evil that it [the Jewish nation] did, having turned to gods of others. (Devarim 31:18)

Where is Esther [alluded to] in the Torah? I will certainly have concealed (haster astir) My faceŠ (Devarim 31:18). (Chullin 139b)

It’s a play on the word ‘astir’ and ‘esther,’ but the Talmud is serious, and Rashi explains the full intent of the question:

TO THE EVENT OF ESTHER: [G-d is saying that] “I will certainly have concealed My face” in the days of Esther; it will be [a time of Divine] concealment, and [therefore] of great troubles and evils. (Rashi)

When we think about the story of Purim, we recall how Mordechai and Esther engineered the miraculous salvation of the Jewish nation from Haman’s diabolical attempt to execute his own version of the ‘Final Solution’ against the Jewish people of his time. Celebrating his downfall each Purim, it is easy to recall the miracle and forget the tzoras (troubles) he caused, and how they affected the lives of the Jews of Esther’s time.

However, in the context of this week’s parshah, the verse is not focusing on the miracle, but on that which preceded it. The posuk is talking about the blackness, the null and void that results in history when the Jewish people turn their back on G-d and history.

In fact, the following dialogue from the Talmud reinforces this point:

The students of Rebi Shimon bar Yochai asked him, “What did they do to warrant extermination in that generation?”

He answered them, “You tell me.”

They said, “Because they attended the banquet of that evil person (Achashveros)!”

He said, “If so, then only Shushan should have been destroyed, not the entire world (i.e., the Jews in all the provinces as well).”

They replied, “Then you tell us!”

He told them, “Because they bowed down to an idol (Rashi: During the time of Nebuchadnetzar).”

They asked, “If so, then they were really guilty. Why did they survive (Rashi: Why did they merit a miracle)?”

He told them, “They only did it ‘within’ (Rashi: Out of fear). Therefore, The Holy One, Blessed is He, acted ‘within’ (i.e., in a hidden way), as it says, ‘For, He does not torment randomly’ (Eichah 3:33).” (Megillah 12a)

In other words, though the Jewish people only bowed down to the foreign god as part of an act to fool Nebuchadnetzar, in order to avoid persecution, G-d, in turn, only ‘acted’ as if He had abandoned the Jewish people. For, as the Nefesh HaChaim points out, the words, “G-d is your shadow at your right hand” (Tehillim 121:5) can be taken literally: G-d shadows our actions – how we behave towards Him is the way He behaves towards us.

This reminds me of that joke about the person who died, went to Heaven, and complained to G-d:

PERSON: “You know, G-d, all of my life I trusted in You, and even told others to do the same. Yet, when it came to winning the lottery, I always lost. Tell me, WHY COULDN’T YOU LET ME WIN THE LOTTERY JUST ONCE!”


Not for naught have I told this joke, as we will now see, b’ezras Hashem.

Shabbos Day:

You will arise and show Tzion mercy, for the time to favor her, for the appointed time will have come. For, your servants have cherished her stones, and favor her dust. (Tehillim 102:-14:15)

Beautiful words, no? Obviously they are talking about redemption, the final one, the one for which hundreds of generations of Jews have waited now for about 3,000 years. Here’s another one:

The righteous blossoms are seen in the land, the time of your song has arrived, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in the land. (Shir HaShirim 2:12)

Beautiful words, yes! However, instructive words as well. Words that, if taken seriously by a large amount of Jews today, could VERY dramatically change the course of history and lead to the quick fulfillment of the dreams and aspirations of generations of Jews. For, it turns out, that while we twiddle our thumbs down here on earth, wondering, “When will G-d FINALLY bring the redemption,” it turns out that He, so-to-speak, is twiddling HIS thumbs up in Heaven saying, “When will My children FINALLY bring the redemption!”

What? Wait a minute. No one wants the redemption more than we doŠ It’s G-d, isn’t it, Who’s holding things up, for reasons known only to Him, right? That’s why we’re, well, just sort of hanging outŠ you know, waiting for things to happenŠ making the best of a situation we seemed destined to endure until the Boss says, “Enough!” and brings us back home once and for all.

Consider the following:

A fundamental of the period of Moshiach is that all three essentials, ‘ye’udim,’ ‘mo’adim,’ and, ‘me’yudim,’ must occur together like intertwined strands that will not break, and they are: actions, times, and emissaries, as alluded to in the verse, “The righteous blossoms are seen in the land, the time of your song has arrived, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in the land.” (Shir HaShirim 2:12) “Righteous blossoms are seen” refers to actions taken, “the time of your song” refers to the times, and “the voice of the turtledove” refers to the emissaries. It is similar with respect to the posuk, “For there is a time for everything (chafetz)” (Koheles 3:17), that is, the “time” comes according to the desire (chafetz) of Israel and what they initiate from below (isarusa d’l’tatta). This is also the meaning of the verse, [“The smallest [tribe] will increase a thousand fold, and the youngest into a mighty nation.] I am God, in its time (b’ittah) I will hasten it (achishenah).” (Yeshayahu 60:22) (Yeshayahu 60:22). That is, even “in its time” – immediately after the smallest will increase a thousand foldŠ We are obligated to see all that we can do – according to our intellectual capability with the help of the One Who gives knowledge, and based upon our rabbis and our teacher, the Vilna Gaon, and the holy allusions, using all the ability we have in deed and thought – to coordinate and join in complete unity all three essentials both in quantity and quality, in level and value, and to understand the way to interweave these fundamentals with the help of the Rock and Redeemer of Israel. (Kol HaTor, Chapter 4:2)

If the meaning of the above is not yet clear, the continuation will help:

The opening of everything large or small in the service during the time of Moshiach is through the ‘me’yudim’ – the emissaries – messengers of Above at the beginning of the redemption. They initiate the ‘ye’udim’ – the actions – and the two of them together result in the ‘moadim’ – the times – the end-times, the specific times of the different levels during the period of the beginningŠ The Me’yudim initiate the ye’udim which bring closer the moadim, and a proof for this is that it says, “You will arise and show Tzion mercy, for the time to favor her, for the appointed time will have come” (Tehillim 102:-14). When, after “your servants have cherished her stones, and favor her dust. Then the nations will fear the Name of G-d, and all the kings of the earth Your glory. For G-d will have built Tzion, He will have appeared in His glory” (Ibid. 15-17). Then the redemption will begin, just as in the days of Koresh and the Second Temple, with the permission of the kings of the land, just as our rabbis have said in the Yerushalmi and the Tosfos Yom Tov. (Kol HaTor, Chapter 4:3).

In other words, the author concludes:

“We don’t need to go to the moed (i.e., the designated times during the period of redemption), but rather, the moed will come to us – after ‘your servants have cherished her stones, and favor her dust’.”

JEWISH PEOPLE: “Now that you’re here and redemption has come, WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?! We waited for you just like the Rambam told us to, yet centuries, even millennia passed in terrible hardship and still you didn’t come until so late!”

MOSHIACH: “What took YOU so long?! I was waiting, and waiting, and waiting to come, but you just wouldn’t take the initiative to make it possible! In fact, half the time it looked as if you were having a good enough time without me, making it too easy to wait.

So, we hide our faces from Heaven, and as a result, G-d hides His from us, as the world drifts closer to darkness, null, and void, AND, eventually, redemption, but on G-d’s time, not ours.


Go through, go through the gates; clear the way for the people; pave, pave the road; clear it of stones; raise a banner over the peoples. (Yeshayahu 62:10)

When Nitzavim and Vayailech are read together, as in most cases, the Haftarah is from Yeshayahu, 61:10-63:9, within which the above posuk is found.

GO THROUGH THE GATES: Of other cities to proclaim the ingathering of the exiles. (Ibn Ezra)

RAISE A BANNER: To signal the scattered Jews to return to their land. (Rashi)

This week’s Haftarah is the last of those read on the seven ‘Shabbatos of Comfort’ that followed the ‘Three Weeks of Mourning’ that ended with Tisha B’Av. And, there is no greater consolation than seeing an end to exile and the beginning of redemption, the final one that is.

However, some consolations can have the reverse effect, emphasizing our helplessness in terms of bringing about desired results, such as the Final Redemption. However, taken in context of the following words which are the basis of the Shabbos HaGadol Haftarah, we should not only be consoled, but energized:

“Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says G-d, Master of Legions; but you say, “For what shall we repent?” (Malachi 3:7)

In other words:

In the measure that we hurry the redemption, cherishing her stones and favoring her dust, the redemption comes closer to us. Thus, though the posuk quoted above,

Go through, go through the gates; clear the way for the people; pave, pave the road; clear it of stones; raise a banner over the peoples. (Yeshayahu 62:10)

It seems to be talking about after Moshiach has arrived, it can actually be talking about RIGHT NOW. The Talmud offers an analogy that is appropriate for two reasons, the first being because of the topic of this dvar Torah, and because Rosh Hashanah is only one week away. The Talmud writes:

Our rabbis taught: “And the spirit will return to G-d, who gave it” (Koheles 12:7); that is, return the soul to G-d just as He gave it to you. He gave it to you purified, return it purified. It is like a human king who distributed clothing to each of his servants. The wise among them folded them and put them in a box, while the foolish ones used them for their daily work. One day, the king demanded that the clothing be returned. The wise returned theirs clean and pressed while the foolish ones returned theirs dirty and worn. The king was pleased with the actions of the wise men but furious at the fools. He thereupon ordered that the clothing of the wise men be stored and that they themselves depart in peace. However, the clothing of the fools was to be laundered while they themselves were to be sent to prison. (Shabbos 152b)

Elsewhere the Talmud defines:

Who is a wise man? One who anticipates what can occur. (Tamid 32a)

It came to pass at the end of the 430 years, and it happened on that very day, that all the hosts of G-d went out from the land of Egypt. (Shemos 12:41)

AND IT HAPPENED ON THAT VERY DAY: This tells us that as the End arrived, G-d did not detain them even as long as the twinkling of an eye (k’heref ayin). (Rashi)

Yeshuas Hashem k’heref ayin – “Redemption of G-d comes in the twinkling of an eye – but only for the one who doesn’t anticipate and initiate.


Moshe told the words of this song in completion into the ears (b’aznei) of the entire assembly of Israel. (Devarim 31:30)

We can assume, more than likely, that Moshe Rabbeinu did not go from person to person, whispering the entire shirah into the ears of each and every Jew. The Targum merely translates the word ‘b’aznei’ as ‘before,’ as in, “before the entire assembly of Israel.” Rashi, and the other classical commentaries certainly don’t seem to be bothered by the usage of this word here, leaving it unexplained. Even the Ba’al HaTurim doesn’t bother to point out any usage of the word, as he often does in such cases – and understandably so, for it occurs 15 times in the Torah itself and 49 times throughout Nach (Prophets and Writings). However, in one of those instances, it says:

G-d told Moshe, “Write this as a remembrance in the Book and recite it in the ears (b’aznei) of Yehoshua, that I shall surely erase the memory of Amalek from under the heavens.” (Shemos 17:14)

– and:

The gematria of ‘b’aznei’ is ‘sod’ (secret), because the war against Amalek in the beginning is through Sod (Kabbalah). As we explained already, the work of ‘Kibbutz Golios’ is the war against Amalek, the way to neutralize the Sitra Achra in the gates of Jerusalem, and Yehoshua was designated as Moshiach Ben Yosef [at that time]. (Kol HaTor, Chapter 2, Part 1:148)

Of course, the numerical value of both words, therefore, is 70 – the number of years until the Jewish people were redeemed from the likes of Haman (since the exile began), who ruled for 70 days, and whose rise and fall is told in 70 verses in Megillas Esther. That is the reason, according to the Gaon, that we recite Psalm 20 – which has seventy words – prior to the prayer, “A redeemer will come to Tzion” in the morning prayer service.

Why Sod – Kabbalah – against Amalek? Simple. Amalek is the master of deception, a willing stumbling block for anyone lacking a sophisticated understanding of how G-d runs His world. He creates doubt, as the gematria of his name indicates (240 = sufek, or ‘doubt’), and feeds off it. Kabbalah is that level of understanding and pristine spiritual clarity to which Amalek has no access.

Thus, as the Vilna Gaon emphasizes, one of the main purposes of Moshiach Ben Yosef is to reveal the secrets of Torah – Sod. Like the Israeli government dispenses gas masks and antidotes in advance of an assumed attack from hostile nations, Moshiach Ben Yosef reveals profound Torah ideas and deep Torah fundamentals necessary for spiritually immunizing a Jew against the confused and spiritually dangerous world of Amalek.

This explanation is just the tip of the iceberg, but perhaps it can be applied to this week’s parshah as well. After all, the whole concept of Shirah is the idea of such pristine clarity, the soul’s need to sing out about its vision and attachment to G-d inspired by His willingness to act on our behalf in miraculous ways. It is inspired by a blatant and sublime revelation of the hand of G-d in the affairs of man, and specifically the affairs of the Jewish people.

I recently heard someone who is somewhat versed in Sod say, “If you had asked me ten years ago the value of learning Sod, I would have answered, ‘It is a very elegant and sublime level of Torah understanding that instantly elevates the person to a much higher dimension of living.’ It seemed, at the time, to be a luxury. However, today I would add to that: ‘It allows you to pierce through the confusion of world events and see past the hester panim (‘hiding of G-d’s face’), in order to make sense of the events of today and to remain strong in faith in G-d.’ This makes it an absolute necessity.”

Can we say, then, that it makes one sing?

Have a great Shabbos,
K’siva u’chasimah tovah, l’shanah tovah u’mesukah,
Pinchas Winston