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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Nitzavim

Connect the Dots

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"The hidden things belong to Hashem; but that which is revealed belongs to us & our children forever."

This phrase from our Sedra, always read before Rosh Hashana, is quite mysterious; what, exactly, are the "hidden" things, & what are the "revealed" ones? And why are there little dots floating above part of this sentence?

Rashi is also puzzled by this, & explains that the "hidden things" refer to sins which are hidden from society – for which the sinner alone, & not the community, will be held responsible; or to those sins that we ourselves do, without even realizing that we have sinned. Alternatively, it may refer to those Jews - & they are many, alas – who do not even know they are Jews, but will somehow be brought back eventually by Hashem to the fold of Am Yisrael.

Indeed, hundreds of thousands – even millions - of people living around the world descend from Jews, yet haven’t any inkling where they come from. It is estimated that a full 20% of the Iberian Peninsula’s population – 10 million people! – have Sephardic Jewish ancestry.

But what about those curious little dots?

If we read the opening section of the parsha carefully, we see a pattern emerge. First, Moshe tells the people that everyone in the nation has a role to play: From the oldest to the youngest; from the highest rank of leadership to the simplest water-carrier or wood chopper; men & women; those born a Jew & those who convert to Judaism.

Then we are told that we are not "standing" here alone; we represent all of our ancestors who came before us, who paved the way for us to reach this moment. If we ask; "Why do we merit living in Israel, while our ancestors – who invariably were more pious than we are – did not live to see this day?" The answer is that we stand on their shoulders; we can emerge from the "pit" of Galut because they stood so tall for so long, until we, in this generation, finally climbed up on their backs & emerged into Geula.

Finally, we are told that we will be held responsible by our future generations if we "mess up;" if we forfeit the Land due to our failure to appreciate our good fortune, & forsake the covenant we took upon ourselves at Har Sinai to always follow Hashem & His Torah.

To appreciate the message being sent, we must "connect the dots" to see the full picture. We are one, indivisible body of the Jewish People. All of us, past, present & future. No one is left out, every single Jew is an integral part of the whole. On the one hand, it’s an awesome, even frightening thought that we carry so much on our shoulders. But at the same time, it’s reassuring & inspirational to know just how broad those shoulders are.

May they support us as we ask Hashem for a New Year.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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