Weekly Torah Portion

Nitzavim – There are Things That Will Always Be Hidden From Us

In the Torah reading of Nitzavim, this well-known verse appears: “The hidden things belong to the L-rd, our G-d, but the revealed things apply to us and to our children forever so we will fulfill all the words of this Torah.” There are different types of commandments in the Torah. Some make sense and appeal to our logic, and others are incomprehensible and have mysterious reasons.

The Torah commands us that a person should not say: “I understand the commandments associated with doing kindness, giving charity, respecting my parents, and interacting with my fellow man, so I will keep these commandments. However, I will not keep those commandments that I do not understand.” The Torah warns us: “Fulfill all the words of this Torah.” Not only the commandments that are self-evident, but also the incomprehensible ones.

But we wonder: Why did the Almighty give us a whole category of incomprehensible commandments together with logical commandments? Wouldn’t it have been better if we would know the reason for every commandment, as well as its value and reward? Why did the Almighty choose to keep the reason for a great number of commandments secret?

Our sages tell us that if we would know the reason and reward of every mitzvah, we might not fulfill some of the commandments. This is like a king who wanted his orchard to have fruit trees of all kinds. He proclaimed throughout his country that anyone who plants a tree in his new orchard, will get a reward based on the degree to which the tree finds favor in the eyes of the king.

Many people came and planted various kinds of trees. One planted a peach tree, a second brought an orange tree, a third brought an apricot tree, etc. After everyone had finished planting their trees in the orchard, the king walked around, and affixed to every tree trunk the reward he was going to pay its owner, with a different reward for each tree. It turned out that the king gave the highest reward to the peach tree. Everyone came and complained: “Your Majesty, if you would have told us that you like peaches, we would have all planted peaches. Why didn’t you tell us?”

The king replied: “That is exactly the reason why. If I would have told you in advance what fruit I love the most, my whole orchard would be full of only peach trees. But I want an orchard that contains a wide variety of trees of every kind. A perfect orchard must have a large range of trees, including those that aren’t my favorite ones.”

A person must perfect himself by doing the full range of commandments. Every commandment illuminates another angle in a person, and if G-d would have revealed the reason of every commandment, we might have inferred which one is more exalted and what brings a greater reward. This would cause us to abandon the commandments that give a lower reward, and focus only on those commandments that have a bigger reward.
G-d therefore hid from us the reward of all the commandments, so we would perfect ourselves by keeping all types of commandments.

Nevertheless, G-d created us with a natural ability to understand some of the commandments which make sense to human logic, so we can draw a conclusion from them to the rest of the commandments.

Just as the rational laws are good and wonderful and it is obvious to us why they are needed, in the same way the commandments that are incomprehensible to us have profound reasons as can be expected from G-d Almighty’s wisdom. They are not meaningless or arbitrary.

The fact that we do not know the reason does not detract anything from their wisdom. This insight brings a person to perfect himself by doing all kinds of commandments, including those between man and man and those between man and G-d. In that way, he attains the desired spiritual perfection in body and soul.

Shabbat shalom.


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