Parashas Nitzavim-Vayeilech

In this week’s parashah, the Torah says (Devarim 30:1-3): “And it will be, when all these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse that I have set before you, and you take the matter unto your heart amidst the nations among whom Hashem your God has cast you … that Hashem your God will then return your captivity and have compassion on you.” The Maggid links this passage to the following Midrash (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 2:31): “‘Show Me your appearance (מראיך)’ (Shir HaShirim 2:14). Thus it is written (Shemos 14:13): ‘Stand fast and see the salvation of Hashem.’” The Maggid explains this enigmatic Midrash with a parable.
A man got angry at his only son and banished him from his house. The lad wandered from place to place, totally bereft. The father was pained over his son’s suffering, but held himself back from taking action, so that  his would son receive his due punishment and learn his lesson. One of the father’s friends came across the son, and saw how his visage had blackened. He said to the lad: “Let me give you a piece of advice. You should know that although your father sits comfortably in his house, his visage has also blackened with anguish over you. So go quickly, buy yourself a mirror (מראה), and go stand before your father with the mirror hung over your chest. Plead before him, saying: ‘Please, my dear father, see how you look. See how the glow is gone from your face. And then, please, take me back, if not for my sake then for yours.”
The parallel is as follows. The Zohar teaches (Vayeishev 182a):
When the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, the Divine Presence was exiled among foreign nations. Regarding this it is written (Yeshayah 33:7):  “The angels scream out, and the agents of peace cry bitterly.” They all cried over this, and banded together in crying and mourning. All this over the fact that the Divine Presence was exiled from her abode, over the way her appearance had changed. So, too, it was with her husband. His light no longer shined forth, and his appearance was changed. Thus it is written (Yeshayah 13:10): “The sun is darkened in its going forth.” And regarding this it is written (ibid. 52:14): “For marred was his visage unlike that of a man, and his form unlike that of the sons of men.”
Without attempting to grasp all the mystical aspects of this teaching, we see overall that, so to speak, our suffering in exile causes Hashem’s appearance to change. Now, Yirmiyahu advises us (Eichah 2:19): “Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches! Pour out your heart like water before Hashem.” Water acts like a mirror. Yirmiyahu is telling us, so to speak, to place a sheet of water before Hashem so that He can see His reflection and observe how His visage has been marred. Where is the radiance of His glory and splendor? And then we can say to Him: “Save us, for Your sake, not for ours.”
This is the idea behind the Midrash we quoted at the outset. Hashem says: “Show Me your appearance.” This charge can be rendered homiletically: “Display Me with your mirror.” And thus the Midrash links this charge to the following one: “Stand fast [present yourselves] and see the salvation of Hashem.” Regarding the “salvation of Hashem,” the Midrash comments elsewhere (Shemos Rabbah 30:24):
“For My salvation in near in coming” (Yeshayah 56:1). Hashem does not say “for your salvation is near in coming,” but rather “My salvation.” … He says: “All the days that you are there [in exile], I am with you in your distress.” As it is written (Tehillim 90:15): “I am with him in distress.”
In Yalkut Shimoni, Nach 679, the Midrash teaches:
“Hashem will answer you on the day of trouble” (Tehillim 20:2). Said the Holy One Blessed Be He: “When trouble comes upon Yisrael, and they seek Me and combine concern for My honor with their concerns, at that time I will answer them.” As it is written (Tehillim 91:15): “He shall call out for Me and I shall answer him. I am with him in distress – I shall release him and bring him honor.”
In the Hebrew, Devarim 30:1 reads:
וְהָיָה כִי יָבֹאוּ עָלֶיךָ כָּל הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה הַבְּרָכָה וְהַקְּלָלָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ וַהֲשֵׁבֹתָ אֶל לְבָבֶךָ בְּכָל הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר הִדִּיחֲךָ ה' אֱלֹקֶךָ שָׁמָּה:
The last three words of the verse can be rendered: “Hashem your God is there.” This is the matter that we must take to heart: that as we suffer in exile, Hashem is there with us. And we should focus on not on our own pain, but on Hashem’s pain. This is a merit that will help bring the final redemption.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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