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Nitzavim: Setting An Example For Our Children

הנסתרות לה' אלקינו והנגלות לנו ולבנינו עד עולם לעשות את כל דברי התורה הזאת.

“The hidden things are [known] to Hashem our G-d, and the revealed things are for us and our children forever to do all that it says in the Torah.”

Our holy sefarim explain that there are many ways by which Hashem judges the person. Sometimes the person’s intentions are primarily considered during judgment, and in such cases it is most important to focus on purifying one’s thoughts and intentions. The person must strive to cleanse his thoughts from improper notions, and then his words and actions will automatically follow. This is because the person gets pulled along to where his thoughts and ideas take him.

On the other hand, we find that sometimes it is more important to focus on doing the proper thing, because the person gets pulled along with his actions. If he will occupy himself with good deeds, his thoughts will automatically become refined as well. The Chinuch writes regarding the prohibition against breaking a bone of the Pesach Offering (mitzvah 16): “Don’t think, my son, to argue against my words by saying: ‘Why did Hashem command us to do all of this as a memorial for the great miracle?’ Because you shall know that the person becomes persuaded by his own deeds and his heart and all of his thoughts always follow his deeds, whether for good or for bad. And even someone who is totally wicked in his heart and all his thoughts are full of evil all day, if he will strengthen his spirit and make the effort to toil in Torah and mitzvos, even if not for the sake of Heaven, he will instantly be pulled to the good side, and by the power of his deeds he will vanquish the yetzer hara, for hearts are pulled after the deeds.” He continues by saying that the same is true in reverse: “Even if a person will be completely righteous in his heart and desire Torah and mitzvos, if he will occupy himself all the time with improper things – for example, if the king will give him the duty of doing something evil – within time he will lose his righteousness of heart and become thoroughly wicked, for it is known and it is true that the entire person is shaped by his actions, as discussed.”

We see from this that the person’s actions are more important than his thoughts, as it can actually change the person completely from within. Therefore, a person must focus on improving his actions more than on purifying his thoughts.

There are other seeming contradictions when it comes to ways of serving Hashem. We find that a person must serve Hashem with confidence and strength, doing openly what’s right without pausing to consider what others may think of him. On the other hand, we find that a person must “walk humbly with Hashem your G-d” and serve Him without fanfare or publicity. How do these two directives work together?

Regarding this matter, our tzaddikim have taught us that a person must serve Hashem humbly, without publicity, to avoid becoming arrogant and full of himself. But when it comes to matters about which there is no concern of ga’avah (arrogance), the person should serve Hashem openly in order to serve as an example to others.

We find a similar contradiction when it comes to prayer. On the one hand it says that “the voice awakens the kavanah (concentration),” and therefore it is proper to daven with a full voice. On the other hand it says about Chana (Shmuel I 1:13): “Her lips moved but her voice wasn’t heard.” Sometimes when a person prays silently they are able to concentrate better.

The holy Ari quotes the verse: “My mouth will speak Hashem’s praise and all flesh will bless His holy Name forever.” He asks: “Why is it necessary to pray by mouth? The most important things are the person’s intentions and the aspirations in his heart. Why isn’t it enough to have a prayer in one’s heart? Hashem knows what’s in our hearts anyway, so why must we express ourselves to Hashem in words?”

He explains that praying silently may have worked for the great men in earlier generations - men whose hearts were pure. However, their children who will not have seen their parents pray, will lose their connection to Hashem. They will not have the ability to pray with their hearts and will need verbal prayer to help express themselves at least in words, if not with full concentration and feeling. Therefore “my mouth will speak Hashem’s praise” so that “all flesh shall be able to bless His holy Name forever” and future generations should be able to pray to Hashem.

This   is   what   the   verse   is   teaching   us: “ The   hidden   things   are   known to Hashem our G-d.”

Hashem is privy to all our thoughts and feelings and we may have been able to serve Him privately and quietly, without any outward manifestations of our inner service. However “the revealed things are for us and our children forever to do all that it says in the Torah.” We serve Hashem with actions and words, not just thoughts, so that our children should learn from this and follow in our ways, and they should be able to fulfill the Torah in action. As we’ve discussed before, the Chinuch writes about the power of deeds to change the person’s entire being. This is why it is important to serve Hashem openly and publicly, with words and actions - so that our children should have whom to model and their actions should influence their thoughts.


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