The hidden face of G-d

In a Dvar Torah, Dr. Frager explains the purpose of G-d 'hiding His face,' encourages tshuva.

Dr. Joseph Frager,

Rachael Cerrotti - Flash 90

"Behold you will lie with your Forefathers, but this people will rise up and stray after the gods of the foreigners of the land, in whose midst it is coming and it will forsake Me and annul My Covenant that I have sealed with it.

"My anger will flare against it on that day and I will forsake them and I will conceal My face from them and they will become prey and many evils and distresses will encounter it. It will say on that day, 'Is it not because My G-d is not in my midst that these evils have come upon me?' But I will surely have concealed (hastair astir) My face on that day because of all the evil that it did, for it had turned to gods of others." (31:16-18)

What is the significance of the "double" language of "hastair astir"? The answer can be found in the writings of the Baal Shem Tov and his disciples.

G-d loves the Jewish People no matter what. All of G-d's actions are out of love. When the Jews sin, G-d is made unhappy. G-d only wants the Jewish People to succeed. He suffers more when we suffer. Corrective measures are needed so G-d causes "distresses" to make the Jewish People do tshuva ("yesurim shel ahava"). The Jew who recognizes that he or she has done wrong makes the necessary corrections. This is is called tshuva. This is the meaning of the introspective statement, "Is it not because My G-d is not in my midst that these evils have come upon me?"

However, when the Jewish People stop making such assessments and analyses, stop doing tshuva, and no longer see that the hardships they are encountering is because G-d wants them to change their sinful ways, G-d moves into the next phase of his corrective measures. Obviously, doing tshuva prevents this phase from ever going into effect. The "double" language of "hastair astir" relates to the fact that the Jewish People don't even realize they have done wrong and G-d has hidden His face from them. G-d's face is hidden (the first "hiding") but this fact is hidden (the second "hiding") from the people because they have gone so far into the abyss.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon has occurred to the Jewish People in the past and I daresay it is occurring again now. I really pray that this Dvar Torah helps to correct the problem. We should recognize when G-d is hiding His face. This is essential to our quality of life. The problems that people are encountering are not even remotely thought to be the Hand of G-d. This is not our way. This is a very delicate and sensitive (it is not black and white) situation but this is what these posukim above are implying. When the Jewish people fail to see that G-d is hiding His face it does not bode well for us. When the Jewish people stop doing tshuva because they don't even realize they need to do tshuva, then severe corrective measures are employed by the Almighty. The famous meeting in the early 1960's between Elie Wiesel Z'L and the Lubabvitcher Rebbe comes to mind. I think it illuminates these posukim in a very vivid way. It does not take blame away from the Nazis.

It does not get into every detail but it clearly affected Elie Wiesel Z'L for more than half of his life. (Elie Wiesel, Memoirs:All the Rivers Run to the Sea-New York, 1995 pp 402-3) "The Rebbe had read some of my works in French, and asked me to explain why I was angry with G-d. "Because I loved Him too much," I replied. "And now?" he asked. "Now too. And because I love Him, I am angry with Him." The Rebbe disagreed: "To love G-d is to accept that you do not understand Him." I asked whether one could love G-d without having faith. He told me faith had to precede all the rest.

"Rebbe," I asked, "How can you believe in G-d after Auschwitz?" He looked at me in silence for a long moment, his hands resting on the table. Then he replied, in a soft, barely audible voice, "How can you not believe in G-d after Auschwitz?" The Lubabvitcher Rebbe answer to Elie Wiesel Z'L follows in the tradition of the Baal Shem Tov. "But I will surely have concealed My face on that day."

The Holocaust was the most extreme of "hastair astir" but as the Lubabvitcher Rebbe points out, it was G-d at work. The hastair panim is not a passive action on the part of G-d. It is kinetic. It is meant to increase our observance and upholding of the Torah. May G-d never hide His face from us again.