Parshat Nitzavim Vayelech

In Parshat Nitzavim Moshe in his parting words wishes to bring all the future generations into the contract with Hashem and at the end of Chapter 29 again warns of consequences of our straying and closes the Chapter with a mysterious sentence – “The hidden (things) are the concern of Hashem, and the revealed (things), are our and our children’s responsibility for ever to keep the words of this Torah.” Additionally, there are eleven dots placed above the words “for us and our children”, adding to the puzzle. Moshe does not explicitly tell us to what are the hidden and revealed, is this a continuation of the previous sentences referring to our misdeeds which may be hidden from others or some other secrets that Hashem keeps from us?

Rashi explains that Moshe is limiting our responsibility with reference to the consequences of our straying in the preceding sentences – we cannot be responsibility for peoples’ thoughts, they are hidden. However, when some stray and do wrong publicly, it is the responsibility of the nation to take the matter in hand. There is a concept that “all Israel are responsible for one another.” Rashi adds, based on the Talmud Sanhedrin, that the dots signify that this mutual responsibility only came into effect when Bnei Yisrael were settled and took on the commitments of building a nation and society in the promised land. Ramban adds that anything we do wrong out of ignorance, are a secret held by Hashem and he does not hold us responsible.

Fascinatingly, according to tradition these dots, were added by Ezra the scribe. He is reputed to have been in doubt as to whether to put the words in the text and said “if Elijah the prophet will come and ask me why did you put these words in, I will say, that these dots indicated, I wished to rub these words.” Various explanations are given here, but probably what is hinted here is that Ezra was saying is that future generations cannot be held responsible for the straying of past generations. Everyone deserves to start with a clean sheet and try their best.

The Ktav Vekabala suggests that this is a special message for future generations. The Torah which Moshe has laid before us is made up of the revealed and the hidden. The revealed is the Torah text itself and the basic translation and explanations provided by the early commentators. The hidden meanings are there for each generation to discover a new layer of understanding. This he understands from the fact that there are eleven dots, which is actually is the number of the letters of Hashems’ double name, which comes just before the words with the dots. Ezra wanted to put the dots above Hashem’s name to indicate that the sentence can be read, “The hidden and the revealed, are our and our children’s responsibility for ever to keep the words of this Torah.” That is the wonder of the Torah that each generation has added and will continue to add new insights hidden in the words of the Torah.

Rav S R Hirsch, (1808 -1888) with his German community was witnessing the beginnings of the return to our land. He views this as Moshe’s message, that although over the ages we had suffered terrible trials in the diaspora, that Moshe refers to in the earlier sentences, Hashem has a plan, hidden to us, to return us to our homeland. He was perhaps prophesying the additional terrible tragedies enacted by the German nation, which in part, brought closer the establishment of our Jewish State.

I have had quite a busy week and even in my semi-retirement I teach online from time to time and this week I have been teaching about 5G the next generation of mobile networks. The invisible and hidden, bring good and bad. On the one hand we have this terrible invisible pandemic and on the other the power of radio signals and the mobile phone. From whatsapp to waze we cannot leave home without our mobile, but of course with that the radio signal reveals where we are for better or worse.  5G plans to bring much more, and even to help the blind to provide virtual vision. I have even read of a trial project of an Olympic skier who unfortunately has gone blind, but now with a 5G controlled camera on her helmet is able to ski down the snow slopes again.

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