Parshas Nitzavim Vayeilech: The Tree of Life
הנסתרת לה' אלוקינו והנגלת לנו ולבנינו עד עולם (כט:כח)
The hidden are for HaShem, our G-d, but the revealed are for us and our children. (29:28)
A simple reading of our passuk can mean that we are not responsible for those that sin in private. Of course, when one sins publicly, we have an obligation of responsibility towards each other and we must take a stance, protecting the integrity of Klal Yisroel.
We can offer another pshat. Nisht alles vos mir tracht, darfs mir arois zuggen! Not all that we think must we say aloud. Or using today’s jargon: before speaking use a filter! The same goes for actions that one may think about; they do not always need to be followed through. If we exercise a bit of self-control, what was in our mind will remain hidden. HaShem will know about it, but it will not be “out there”. It remains as bein odom lamakom, and at times can even become a zechus if HaShem sees us being kovesh our yetzer. However, if Heaven forbid, a person stumbles and follows through, the effects can be everlasting. Those ideas may even be transmitted to our children. Even upon deciding to do teshuva, the effects that it has on our children will be irreversible.
The same concept works in the reverse. The Belzer Rebbe z”l suggested that the hidden and revealed of our possuk can refer to mitzvos and maasim tovim. We are all very much aware of the middah of vehatznea leches, walking humbly in front of HaShem. It is (supposed to be) in our nature to conceal different good deeds that are performed. Unless it is for motivating others, one is never meant to publicize their good deeds. However, the Rebbe suggested that there is another exception to this rule. When it comes to one’s children, one should let them know about their good practices. How else will one pass on to the next generation the proper ways to act? If one hopes for his child to be a baal tzedaka,but never allows his child to see him giving, what chances are there for the child to follow in his footsteps? If the child never sees his father learning Torah, can the father really expect that his son will? Even if the father spends the entire day learning Torah and davening, albeit from behind closed doors, none of it will carry over. Children must see it with their own eyes to do the same. Accordingly, הנסתרת -the hidden [good] deeds, לה' אלוקינו - only HaShem will know about, (with no carry over), but והנגלת - the actions that are revealed, (the family knows about), לנו ולבנינו עד עולם - those shall remain with our children forever.
ואמר ביום ההוא הלא על כי אין אלהי בקרבי מצאוני הרעות האלה ואנכי הסתר אסתיר פני ביום ההוא (לא:יז-יח)
And they will say on that day, 'Is it not because our God is no longer among us, that these evils have befallen us?’ And I will hide My face on that day (31:17-18)
Although Klal Yisroel acknowledges that the Shechina Hakedosha is concealed, this acknowledgement alone does not suffice to bring the HaShem back into our midst. It is sincere teshuva preceded by vidduy that causes this hester panim to end. But how does one actually bring HaShem back into his daily life? Furthermore, at these precious moments between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, when all of Klal Yisroel is fully engrossed with the mitzvah of teshuva and making kabbalos big and small, this question is especially significant.
The Gemara in Masechta Makkos (24a) quotes Dovid HaMelech's description (Tehillim 15) of the character of someone that wants to "sojourn in HaShem's tent and dwell in His mountain- walking uprightly, working righteousness, speaking truth in his heart, having no slander on his tongue, nor doing any evil to his fellow. He who does these things shall not falter". The Gemara relates that this kapittel would cause Rabban Gamliel great distress, bringing him to tears. Perhaps one of these virtues we may be able to obtain, but all of them? The Gemara replies that Dovid HaMelech never said that one must do "all of them". Rather, even if a man observes only one thing, but he does it fully and wholeheartedly without any ulterior motives, solely motivated by the fact that he is fulfilling HaShem's commandment, such a person shall not falter for eternity! The Rambam in his commentary on Mishnayos extends this gemara to include any of the 613 mitzvos.
But the question is obvious: as great as any particular mitzvah may be, how can just one mitzvah have the ability to bring the Shechina Hekedosha back inside our lives and into our homes?
In explanation of this Gemara and Rambam, the Sefer Chareidim (61) explains the awesome power of grabbing onto one mitzvah with all of one’s might. עץ חיים היא למחזיקים בה- the 613 mitzvos are a tree of life for those that grab onto it. One that tries grasping all the branches of a tree in one shot will not be able to keep his hold. However, taking a firm grip on one branch enables one to keep a hold of the entire tree. And so it is with mitzvos; when one grabs onto a mitzvah with all his might, any mitzvah, this will surely cause all the other mitzvos to come along with it.
We find in many places in Shas a practice of Tannaim and Amoraim seemingly patting themselves on their backs for observing rather easy mitzvos that everyone keeps. To name a few of the examples, we find tefillin, tzitzis, eating three meals on Shabbos, wearing a head covering, concentrating when davening, according honor to a Kohen, a Kohen blessing people, making Friday night Kiddush on wine- and the list goes on. All these mitzvos are obligatory and one would expect nothing less, especially of such high statured individuals. Yet, the Gemara makes special mention of these. It seems that these mitzvos were that particular Tanna or Amora’s “baby”.
The Sefer Chareidim explains that these Tannaim and Amoraim felt that “their mitzvah” was their personal connection to HaShem. As a result of that one mitzvah, they were in turn able to grab onto the rest of the mitzvos as well. Their own mitzvah was the defining moment in their life that made them who they were.
We must ask ourselves the question: WHAT IS MY MITZVAH? If we can focus on this awesome power of “one mitzvah”, we can surely merit bringing HaShem back into our lives, resulting in our lives taking on a brand-new meaning. What better way can there be to go into a new year.
Good Shabbos, מרדכי אפפעל