HIDDEN THINGS – Nitzavim-Vayeylekh – Deut. 29:9-31:30 – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon
This week we read a double portion with countless quotable lines. Just arbitrarily, let’s pick one. “The hidden things belong to G-d, and the revealed things are for us and our children forever to carry out all the words of this Law.”
What is hidden? What is revealed? Certainly the Torah lays out its rules completely. No secret mysteries here, as in some other doctrines. So the guidelines of our lives are revealed, and our duty is to carry them out. Then what is hidden?
Human minds in their limitation cannot know or understand everything. Our most brilliant scientists are still discovering phenomena. World renowned archeologists still search for more data about the past. And without doubt historians cannot be experts in science – or vice versa. Plenty of hidden things there, but no personal responsibility. Since G-d knows everything, we leave it at that.
Our commentators take a very different view. They tell us that this sentence refers specifically to sins. Yes, there are hidden offenses. An individual can commit an evil act in secret and “get away with it.” Murder, theft, arson, rape – any number of crimes go unpunished. Nobody knows who did it. No human being, that is. But G-d knows. “The hidden things belong to G-d.” So the perpetrator can expect justice hereafter. On the other hand public violations are a matter of record. If an entire family engages in wrongdoing, they cannot keep it secret and frequently don’t even try. Could be smuggling, extortion, prostitution, the drug trade or the numbers game – it is known. How much more public is the evil practiced by a business, a union or an entire national administration. All the people, all citizens, then bear responsibility to expose the culprits and expel them, says the Kli Yokor commentary, because “the revealed things belong to us and our children forever, to carry out the words of this Law.”
This year, these teachings inevitably raise a question: if the hidden things are secretly intercepted messages in NSA files, and whistleblowers reveal them, who should be expelled from the country?
You can contact Rabbi Baruch Cohon for further discussion and/or comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org