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(5749) Hints in Parshat Vayelech to the time of Aseret Yemei Teshuva (the Ten Days of. Repentance)

Rashi (Deut 31:17): "and hide My face". Two aspects of "I will abandon them" and "hide My face from them" and the exactness of the wording of Rashi: "As though I do not see their distress"

(Vol 34, XXXIV pg 194)


1. In many years, Parshat Vayelech is read on Shabbat (Te) Shuva. Since, as it is known, the portent of each of the Parshiot that are read in the Torah are related to the time that they are read, one must say that there is a lesson in the aspect of Teshuva in this Parsha.

One can say plainly, that this is why we find in Parshat Vayelech many aspects of Mussar (reproach) for forsaking Torah and Mitzvot etc. For the purpose of the Mussar is (not (just) to make known the punishment for forsaking Torah and Mitzvot but) to awaken our hearts to Teshuva, in a manner that, from the very onset, punishment will not come. For even if they have faltered, they have returned from their bad ways.

It has been explained many times that the main innovation of the Avodah of Teshuva on Shabbat (Te) Shuva – is not Teshuva on sins, but rather Teshuva whose aspect and theme is (to return) to come closer to G-d this is as expressed in the verse,

“And the spirit returns to G-d, Who gave it” (והרוח תשוב אל האלקים אשר נתנה).

This is called (in the Zohar) Teshuva Ila’ah, (the higher from of Teshuvah- תשובה עילאה). This Teshuva does not stem from bitterness (מרירות) but from “great happiness” (שמחה רבה).

According to this one must say that the words of Mussar in Parshat Vayelech, although in the simple sense are related to Teshuva over sins, nevertheless, not only do they not contradict feelings of happiness but, on the contrary, they awaken “great happiness” (שמחה רבה).

One can find an allusion to this, in that the aspects of Mussar in Parshat Vayelech are connected to the writing of Shirat Haazinu. For although the theme of the song is - words of Mussar, “in order to induce the people to do Teshuva”, at the same time it is called a “song”, which depicts happiness.

(So much so that this Parsha is among the songs of the Levites that were sung when offering the korban, where we do not say song except on wine (happiness)) –

This is because the Mussar of Parshat Haazinu brings a person to happiness, as it is explained, at length in another place. (Note: Likkutei Sichos vol 24 pg 236)

According to this, one could explain (according to Remez – allusion) the precise wording of Rashi in our Parsha, with regard to the words of Mussar:

“And My fury will rage . . and I will abandon them and hide My face from them” ("וחרה אפי גו' ועזבתים והסתרתי פני מהם גו'")


Where he explains

and hide My face: As though I do not see their distress”.

With this Rashi is hinting, that even when the conduct of Yisroel causes “My fury will rage . . and I will abandon them and hide My face from theme etc.”, G-d does not really abandon, G-d forbid, Bnei Yisroel. Rather this is just, “As though I do not see etc.” However, the truth is that G-d sees and feels the pain of Yisroel. Moreover, it is as the verse states, "In all their trouble (Lo Tzar), He is afflicted. Isa. 63:9)" and he is found in the very trouble. Moreover, on the contrary, the entire intent of the hiding of the face (הסתר פנים) is just to awaken Bnei Yisroel to return to G-d, as will be explained in Par. 6 at length. This matter, emphasizes G-d’s great love to Bnei Yisroel in whatever condition they are in.

This is also the connection and relation to the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah, as the Alter Rebbe explains on the saying of the Sages that in the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah, G-d is “close” (קרוב) to Bnei Yisroel.

He writes:

“He is called “close” but He is distanced and hidden from them. This is like the parable of a son who is by his father in his house, yet the father hides his face from him, in order that his son should take the love into his heart and reveal his love (for his father) with greater vigor. When the son recognizes that the father is here and is hiding his face from him, then certainly his love will grow in a more revealed level”

2. It has been explained many times, that in addition to the allusions in Rashi’s commentary on Torah – nevertheless his primary aim is to explain the simple meaning of the verse.

In our case, one must understand Rashi’s comment that, “(I will) hide My face” means, “As though I do not see their distress”.

R’ Eliyahu Mizrachi (the Ro”m) explains that,

“G-d’s hiding of His face is the lack of His Providence, (העדר השגחתו) and it is called “(I will) hide My face” because one does not give attention (משגיח) to something that one’s face does not see. (מפני שכל מי שאין פניו רואות את הדבר אינו משגיח בו) This is why the Rabbi (Rashi) purposely stated, ‘As though I do not see their distress’”.

However, this requires explanation:

Seemingly, the simple explanation of hiding of the face, Supernally, is an expression that denotes a condition of anger etc. This is the opposite of the blessing, “May the L-rd cause His countenance to shine to you and favor you“ which depicts G-d’s happiness with Bnei Yisroel, as Rashi explains there, “May He show you a pleasant, radiant countenance”.

This is similar to the conduct of a father with his son. When the father shows his son a pleasant countenance, this depicts his visible love towards him, and when he is angry with him, he hides his face from him.

Therefore, why did Rashi omit this explanation of the Supernal hiding of the face – which is:

  1. Fitting with the beginning of the verse “My fury (face) will rage” (וחרה אפי)
  2. A thing that is related to the general aspect of “face” (פנים) – and explain that it refers to the lack of His providence (העדר השגחתו), that is related (just) to “G-d’s eyes” (עיני ה') (and not to the entire face).

3. One also requires an explanation in Rashi’s precise words, “As though I do not see their distress”:

For seemingly, since Rashi’s intent is to explain G-d’s hiding of His face with regard to the aspect of the lack of providence, it should have stated “as if I do not see them”. Why does he restrict the lack of sight (and the providence) just to “their troubles”?

Therefore, it appears and is understood from this, that Rashi’s intent is not to refer to the lack of providence which is the cause of the evils and troubles.

(As is explained in Moreh Nevuchim, and other commentators. Namely, that since Bnei Yisroel are in a state of concealment of the face (G-d’s countenance), and the lack of providence, their fortune is left to “chance” (למקרה), and therefore evils and troubles befall them”. This is like the continuation of Scripture here, 'Is it not because our G-d is no longer among us, that these evils have befallen us?”).

Rather, it refers to the lack of providence after the evils and troubles have befallen. For even then G-d conducts Himself, “As though I do not see their distress”.

(In other words, it is not that He does not have providence on Bnei Yisroel, but rather that He does not see the troubles. Therefore, He does not turn to their cries etc. to save them).

[According to this, also Rashi’s words, “I do not see”, are also precise. Seemingly, he should have stated, “I do not pay attention” (שאיני משגיח) (which is the main point).

Why does Rashi state, “I do not see”, and rely on the student to understand that his intent is to the lack of providence (להעדר ההשגחה) - “because one does not give attention (משגיח) to something that one’s face does not see”?

However, according to the aforementioned, it is understood. Rashi’s intent is not to G-d’s lack of providence over Bnei Yisroel, which is the cause of the troubles etc. (on which the expression “I do not pay attention” is fitting) but rather to the lack of G-d’s seeing the troubles (that have already come), as aforementioned].

It is puzzling:

Scripture states,

“(I will) hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will befall them”

Thus, the hiding of G-d’s face comes before the condition of “and they will be consumed etc.”

Moreover, on the contrary, it is the cause of the evils. Yet Rashi explains oppositely, that the “(I will) hide My face” is after the evils and troubles have befallen them?'

Seemingly, one could say that this is because in the Heavenly punishments that we have learned of in Scripture until now, we do not find (in the simple meaning of the verse) that they came due to a lack of providence.

On the contrary, the punishment of evildoers comes specifically because of G-d’s providence. He judges the evildoer and metes a fitting punishment. Moreover, a severe punishment for a severe sin, is described in Scripture (not in an expression of concealment of the face, but) in an expression of “I will set My attention (Face)” (ונתתי פני), and so forth). This is as Rashi explains, “I will make Myself free (פּוֹנֶה) from all My affairs, and I will deal with this person!” In other words, it depicts strong providence (תוקף ההשגחה). Therefore, even in our case, Rashi does not explain “(I will) hide My face”, that it is the reason for the punishment etc.

However, this is not a sufficient answer:

For one could say that here, it is speaking of a severe punishment, even more than the punishments that have been mentioned until now, which as explained in the commentators refers to Measure for Measure (Midda K’neged Midda).

Namely that “Corresponding to the forsaking that they forsake G-d

(As it states in the previous verse, “And they will forsake Me and violate My covenant”)

It says, “I will abandon them and hide My face from them”. This means that I also will forsake them and not watch over them. This tiding is harsher than all the tidings . .For in all breaches of the covenant we do not find concealing the face, nor abandonment, but rather commensurate punishment (עונשים השגחיים). Yet here their forsaking Him causes the tiding that He will forsake them and hide His Face from them”.

4. One must also understand:

Why does Rashi add:

As though (I do not see their distress)?

The commentators write that this is problematic to Rashi. For is there, G-d forbid, anything that is hidden from Him? Therefore, he writes, “As though I do not see“.

However, seemingly this is not sufficient. For this emphasis is superfluous.

For even if Rashi would have written, “For I do not see their troubles” it would have been understood that it is not literal, namely that that the thing is hidden from Him. Rather we would understood that that it means that G-d does not pay attention to them to save them etc.

This is as we find in Rashi’s commentary previously in Parshat Shmot, on the verse:

  • “And G-d saw” - “He did not hide His eyes
  • And also on the verse, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people . .and to know their pains” – “I have not hidden My eyes, neither will I block My ears from their cry.

For seemingly, how is hiding the eye applicable to G-d, so much so that one needs to negate ““I have not hidden My eyes”? Therefore, one must say that this is a simple matter. Namely, that hiding the eye means the lack of providence etc. (so much so, that Rashi does not need to explain it).

Moreover and primarily:

Even if one were to say that, “I do not see their troubles” is not an expression that is fitting with regard to G-d. For it is actually literal that the thing is hidden from Him (כי פשוטו ממש שהדבר נסתר לפניו) – Rashi should have written (similar to his aforementioned wording in Parshat Shmot) “I will hide My face –I will hide My eye” (especially since this is the wording of the verse).

5. One could say that the explanation of this, plainly is:

The verse states two things:

  • I will abandon them (and afterward)
  • I will hide My face from them

One must understand:

After G-d abandons them, G-d forbid, and He is not found together amongst them, what is the meaning of the addition afterward, that he will also hide His face from them?

It should have been the opposite:

  • First “I will hide My face from them” (which is applicable even when He is found in their midst),
  • And then additionally “I will abandon them”?

It is well and good if this is speaking of a mortal person. For it is possible to say that he first leaves the place (yet he is still able to see them from there) and afterwards he further adds, that he hides his face so that he will not look at them (even ) from afar:

However, regarding G-d, where “I will abandon them” refers to the lack of providence – which iis described in the expression, “I will abandon them” (which depicts a complete forsaking). This is a thing that is more than the lack of providence of, “(I will) hide (just) My face”?

Therefore, from this Rashi proves that the intent of the verse here is to two aspects of punishment:

  1. Abandoning them - the lack of providence that causes evils and troubles

(like the continuation of the verse “because our G-d is no longer among us, (In other words, “I will abandon them”) that these evils have befallen us”.

  1. “(I will) hide My face from them”. This is after the evils have befallen, where G-d conducts Himself with Yisroel “As though I do not see their distress”.


This plainly answers why it is impossible to explain that the hiding of the face is an expression of a state of wrath etc. (as aforementioned par 1). For anger causes, “I will abandon them”

(As it clearly states here “My fury will rage against them . . and I will abandon them“).

If this were the intent, it should have been stated before, “I will abandon them”.

6. According to this, Rashi’s additional words, “As though I do not see their distress” are also understood:

For even without this it is puzzling:

If one were to say that even after the evils have befallen, G-d hides His eyes from them and does not see the troubles of Yisroel.

Like in Rashi’s, aforementioned words (in Parshat Shmot) that He “blocks My ears from their cry”, we find that the door has been locked for those that wish to return (הרי נמצא שננעלה דלת בפני שבין).

This is the opposite of the intent of punishments, which come to bring a person to Teshuva. As in the words of the verse, “I do not wish for the death of the wicked, but for the wicked to repent of his way so that he may live”. Therefore, how is possible to say that G-d does not see their troubles?

Therefore, Rashi explains, “As though I do not see their distress”. Namely, that the conduct of hiding the eye from the troubles is not a true hiding of the eye (from G-d’s perspective) (אינה העלמת עין אמיתית (מצד הקב"ה)). Rather it is just the perception of the recipients (דמיון של המקבלים). Namely, that Bnei Yisroel perceive that G-d does not see. However, in truth, however sees and discerns (רואה ורואה), and waits for the Teshuva of Yisroel etc.

(And on the contrary, this itself that G-d hides His face in a manner that Bnei Yisroel perceive that He does not see their troubles, this is just in order to further awaken them to return to G-d).

In other words:

The aspect of the lack of providence, which causes the evils and troubles, is something that exists (דבר שבמציאות). For from this come evils and troubles etc., G-d forbid.

(And we do not say on this, “As though I do not see their distress”, since from this conduct actual outcomes occur (באות תוצאות בפועל)).

Whereas, with regard to seeing the troubles of Yisroel (after they have already befallen) – there is no effect with regard to Yisroel אין כאן שום בפועל בנוגע לישראל (). As soon as they do Teshuva, it is revealed that, in truth, He saw their troubles, and turns to them and saves them etc. The whole aspect of “(I will) hide My face” is just with regard to Bnei Yisroel, that they perceive (שלהם נדמה) (due to the abundance of troubles) that G-d does not see their troubles.

One could say that this is also the precise wording

  • “(I will) hide My face” (והסתרתי פני) and not
  • “and I will cover My face” (וכסיתי פני) and so forth:

The difference between the word “cover” and the word “hide” is that:

  • “Hiding” emphasizes that this is in conjunction with another person. One does not say that one hides a thing without taking accord of the thing that he is hiding from him.
  • Whereas the word “covering”, applies even when it is not related to another thing.

According to this, one could say that the difference between covering the face and hiding the face is that:

  • When one covers the face, it effects a change not just with regard to the other person (that the other person does not see him) but also with regard to himself, before him (גם בנוגע לעצמו, לפניו), that they are covered.
  • Whereas when one hides his face, it (is possible) that the change is just regarding the other person, that he does not see the face. However, with regard to the face itself, there is no change at all.

This is what Rashi means by writing “(I will) hide My face” - “As though I do not see their distress”.

It is just a hiding alone (and not a covering). For in truth, certainly G-d sees their troubles and does not conceal His eye at all from Bnei Yisroel. Rather G-d’s seeing is in a manner of “(I will) hide My face”, namely that it appears to Bnei Yisroel that G-d does not see their troubles, as aforementioned.

From this it is understood that, immediately when Bnei Yisroel turn to G-d (the opposite of their conduct that is in a manner of “forsaking Me”, which causes that “I will forsake them”) – that the aspect of “I will abandon them and hide My face from them” is immediately nullified. G-d reveals Himself to Bnei Yisroel “face to face” (פנים אל פנים), with great dearness and revealed love that is visible to all (בחיבה גדולה ואהבה גלוי' לעין כל). And he gives to Bnei Yisroel all the blessings, from His full, open, holy and wide hand, specifically in a good and revealed sense (מידו המלאה הפתוחה הקדושה והרחבה, בטוב הנראה והנגלה דוקא).

MSichas Shabbat Parshat Vayelech 5742

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