Hanistaros l’Hashem Elokeinu (29:28)
One afternoon in Yerushalayim, Rabbi Yaakov Vann was on his way to shul for Minchah when somebody called out from a doorway asking him to complete a minyan in a house of mourning. He gladly agreed to pray with the mourners, but upon entering the apartment, he was surprised to observe that although it was full of sefarim, the mourners themselves did not appear to be religiously observant.
After Minchah, Rabbi Vann took out a Mishnah Berurah and was even more taken aback to see that its margins were full of astute insights and comments. He inquired about the owner of the sefarim, and one of the mourners replied that they all belonged to the deceased, his father. Rabbi Vann probed further, asking whether any of the other family members used the books. Sadly, the son responded that although his father had been a very pious and learned Torah scholar, none of his children had followed in his ways. He explained that when his father came home each night he would lock himself in his study and spend hours poring over his beloved tomes. However, because his Torah study took place behind closed doors and not in the presence of his family, his children never observed him learning and therefore did not absorb his passion for Torah and mitzvos.
As Rabbi Vann left the mourners, he realized that this encounter gave him a newfound appreciation of a chiddush he had recently heard. In Parashas Nitzavim, Moshe told the Jewish people: Hanistaros l’Hashem Elokeinu v’haniglos lanu u’levaneinu ad olam. Literally, this means that hidden things belong to Hashem our G-d, while those that are revealed are forever for us and our children. However, Harav Aharon Rokeach, zy”a, the fourth Belzer Rebbe and uncle of the present Belzer Rebbe, suggested that the verse can be interpreted as follows: Hanistaros l’Hashem Elokeinu — if we hide our mitzvos by doing them privately, then only Hashem will know about our righteous ways. On the other hand, v’haniglos lanu u’levaneinu — if we take a different approach and reveal our good deeds to our children, then our religious priorities and values will remain ad olam, for all eternity, as they will be carried on by our children and descendants for all generations, a lesson which Rabbi Vann understood all too well after his painful visit to the house of mourners.
Q: Moshe told the people (30:12) that the Torah is not in Heaven. The Gemara (Bava Metzia 59b) understands this to mean that after the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, it is up to the Chachamim to decide legal matters, which are no longer within the jurisdiction of Hashem. When the Gemara is left with a difficult question which it is unable to answer, it concludes Teiku, which is traditionally interpreted as an abbreviation indicating that Eliyahu will come and resolve the difficulty. Of what value will it be to hear the opinion of a prophet if legal questions may not be decided by Divine intervention?
Q: Rashi writes (31:11) that the mitzvah of reading Sefer Devarim in front of the people every seven years was performed by the king. Was this mitzvah performed before Shaul was anointed as king, and if so, by whom?
A: 1) The Mishneh L’Melech maintains that we will rely upon the opinion of Eliyahu only when he comes to clarify a doubt regarding the facts in a case (e.g. to whom does a lost object belong), but not if he comes to resolve legal disputes, as this would violate the principle against the Torah not being in Heaven. However, Harav Akiva Eiger, zt”l, cites numerous examples from the Gemara which indicate that we will rely upon Eliyahu even to decide legal issues. The Chasam Sofer resolves this by explaining that while Eliyahu’s soul ascended to Heaven, his body remained here. When his soul appears in this world, it is considered the equivalent of an angel and its prophetic opinion may not be used to determine the law.
However, when his soul is reunited with his body to herald the coming of Moshiach, he will be considered just like any Torah scholar, and legal decisions he renders bolstered not by prophetic but by logical arguments may be accepted and relied upon. This is also the opinion of the Birkei Yosef, which adds that even when Eliyahu appears in his spiritual guise, he is still believed to prophetically clarify the facts in a case. However, the Tosefos Yom HaKippurim disagrees with all of these opinions and argues that the Torah requires two witnesses to establish a fact, and a prophet is not believed even to clarify doubts about the facts in a situation.
A: The Kiryat Sefer writes that the mitzvah was performed exclusively lby the king; this is also the opinion of the Chinuch. It derives from the fact that the mitzvah was commanded to Moshe, who had the status of a king. The Chizkuni suggests that the command was given not to Moshe, but to Yehoshua, who was also considered a king. The Minchas Chinuch questions what was done until the times of Shaul and suggests that perhaps the requirement for the king to read it was not absolute, but could also be fulfilled by the leader of the generation; this is also the opinion of Harav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita. The Netziv writes that in the absence of a king, it was read by the Kohen Gadol.
Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.