Hidden and Revealed Providence
By: Rav Moshe Stav
"The HIDDEN is for Hashem, our G-d, but the REVEALED is for us and our children forever, to carry out all the words of this Torah." (Devarim 29:28)
On a simple level, this pasuk refers to the mutual responsibility that all Jews have for one another regarding the performance of mitzvot.
However, after contemplation, we can uncover another message hinted to in this pasuk. Many parshiot in the Torah warn of the various punishments that can come for not performing the mitzvot. Both the midrash and the rishonim explain at length that these passages are not merely conditional, but that they have actually occurred in the nation's history. Still, the passages are almost always written in the form of a condition.
However, the style changes starting with this chapter, as the Torah begins to speak in a language that implies a set destiny. The psukim refer to all the things which will occur in the future, "It will be that when all of these things will come upon you ..." (30:1) This continues until the writing of Shirat Ha'azinu which comes as a witness for all generations that Hashem has foretold the future, "This song shall speak up before [Israel] as a witness, for it shall not be forgotten from the mouth of its offspring, for I know its [evil] inclination ..." (31:21)
In the context of this "testimony" we find two fundamental themes. The first is a declaration that Hashem has full knowledge beforehand that we will sin. We are left confused: If Hashem already knew that Israel would not follow the Torah, then why did He give it to them? The second theme that arises amidst the first is a prophetic guarantee that the Torah will not be forgotten from Israel. Along with this comes an assurance of the eternal existence of the Jewish nation and a clear promise for the future redemption that, although dependent on repentance, is guaranteed.
It seems that this section of the Torah comes as a response to two major hardships that would face the nation in the course of its history. The first is the cries of despair that are liable to arise from within the nation when faced with the success of the nations of the world on the one hand, and their own difficulties and Hester Panim on the other. This can bring them to despair and uncertainty about their faith. Through the generations the Chachamim have described this situation at length, to the extent that the Kuzari (which the Gaon of Vilna viewed as the basis of the beliefs of the Jewish people), was in fact entitled by its author, "In Defense of the Disgraced Religion." These psukim also serve a second function. The nations of the world use the degraded condition of the Jewish people as a proof for their claim that G-d rejected (so to speak) the Jews, and has exchanged them for another nation.
In these chapters, the Torah testifies that from the beginning it was clear that the Jewish people would sin enough to deserve exile, that they would repent and return, and that the Torah will be with them through all future generations. Every Jew can find consolation in the idea that everything was already destined from the start, and in the obvious miracle that the Torah has survived through all of history. These parshiot also serve as a tangible answer to the claims of the world, as the Ramban writes (32:40), "This song is a clear promise of the future redemption ... Even if it were ... from the writings of an astrologist, it would have been worthy of trust, because all of its words were fulfilled."
Although these parshiot inspire us and strengthen our Emunah (belief) and Bitachon (trust) in the redemption, they still leave us with a pressing question: Why was the future destined to go in this direction? This brings us to a deep and important idea that is hinted to in many places. It seems to the human eye that the world is run exclusively according to the laws of reward and punishment. When Bnei Yisrael act as they are supposed to, they are blessed with good things, whereas when they sin there is Hester Panim. However, even during times of Hester Panim, there is a higher order from the Ultimate Planner that guarantees that the world will reach its final perfection in some way or another. Even those tragedies which seem to us as punishment and suffering, or those things which seem extraneous or peripheral, will turn out to have been means of bringing the world to its final perfection.
We see this regarding the slavery in Egypt, for it is only after the redemption and the giving of the Torah that we are able to begin to make sense of the servitude. Anyone still in Egypt could never have begun to understand, for they could only see suffering and pain. Like the words of the psalmist, "A boor cannot know, nor can a fool understand this: When the wicked bloom like grass ... But You remain exalted forever, Hashem." (Tehillim 92:7-9) This pasuk is saying that the small person sees only the situation directly in front of him -- the suffering of the righteous and the success of the wicked -- and he cannot understand that there is a higher and all-encompassing picture of everything leading towards a common goal.
This is the correct view of our exile, as well. Even though on a simple level it has all been a punishment, there is also a positive aspect embedded within it. In exile our own Emunah became more real, and any progress in the values, belief in One G-d, and morality of mankind stem from the impact of Bnei Yisrael in one way or another. (See Ramban at the end of Laws of Kings in the Pardes or Mossad Harav Kook edition, as the others have been censored.) The entire route of the exile is guided by a Hand that directs all events toward the perfection of the world. Our minds cannot grasp this idea, let alone understand it! Certainly we cannot base any of our personal life decisions on this idea, for this Ultimate Providence is hidden. We must only think in terms of reward and punishment to do as we are commanded. Providence will guide our lives to different places and situations so that our actions will lead to the appropriate goals.
This is hinted to in the pasuk, "The HIDDEN is for Hashem, our G-d." The hidden Hand that guides all of history is G-dly, and we merely have a faint awareness of it. However, "the REVEALED," i.e., observing the mitzvot and learning Torah, even though we may not see the immediate purpose in them, is in our hands to live by. In the end of days, we will see that everything was under G-d's guiding Hand.
Shiur ID: 3890