Parshas Vayelech: The High Holy Days and G-d’s Hidden Face

Parshas Vayelech is the first Parsha of the year. This year, we started reading it just before as Rosh Hashanah. With the placement in mind, it’s easy to draw inspirations from the High Holy Days when we read the Parsha. Goals, resolutions, new ideas, grand schemes; these are all on our minds as we celebrate the new year, and hopefully, we stick to them after the last festive meal and last blow of the shofar. The truth is, despite our best laid plans, we don’t actually know what the year ahead holds for us. We don’t know what amazing miracles and terrible catastrophes will befall us; we don’t know how we’ll respond to life’s challenges; and we don’t even know if we’ll follow through with our admirable resolutions. But G-d does. After G-d finishes judging us, he knows exactly what the year ahead will hold; for you, for I, and for every other man on earth.

Does that mean we don’t have free will? If G-d knows what we’ll choose, is it still our decision?

It is. We do have free will, and can choose to please G-d with our behaviour, or anger Him instead. Some might ask, how is this so, if he knows what we will do, but in reality this is the case among humans as well as G-d. Just because you predict what someone will do, with 100% certainty, it doesn’t mean you made them do it. And it’s the same with G-d; He doesn’t control our actions, even though He knows what they will be.

In Parshas Vayelech, we read that G-d knows the Israelites will rebel against him, and that He will hide His face from them. G-d then commands the writing of a song (found in next week’s Parsha) to immortalise His relationship with the Israelites. This song tells of what will happen to them, so that they can’t claim they had no idea what the consequences for their actions would be.And yet, despite knowing what the future held, G-d continued to show love to His people. This kind of boundless love is unlike that which is found among humans, but can nonetheless be imitated here on earth. Ahavos Yisroel (love among Jews) will bring about the coming of Moshiach; and although we cannot create and provide the way G-d can, we can remember our role as guarantors for one another and act accordingly.

Ahavos Yisroel undeniably holds a great deal of power. Even those who do not have any faith in the coming of Moshiach (G-d forbid), except in the most concealed part of their souls, can recognise that mutual love makes the world a better place. In 5777, we could transform the entire nature of the world, simply by showing love for one another. And what better time to make this kind of resolution than on Yom Kippur? Normally, we find within ourselves two elements; Yetzer Hara (the evil inclination) and Yetzer Tov (the good inclination). But on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the Yetzer Hara is absent. It’s only for a short period of time, but in this time, we can change the world. By focussing on our souls- not our bodies- we can decide how we are going to improve in the coming year. And this year, let’s decide to hasten Moshiach’s arrival. Let’s resolve to show love towards each other, just as G-d has done to us, every moment of our lives.

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2 thoughts on “Parshas Vayelech: The High Holy Days and G-d’s Hidden Face

  1. That was very inspiring. hope you had a good shabbes. I once heard in a discourse a great rabbi an explanation to the Rambam’s writing about free will. The question was, if we really have free will how Hashem knows what we will do. It is not a free will! and on the contrary, if Hashem knows what will do how can we have free will. Is Hashem’s knowing not absolute?! sounds like a contradiction, al paradox! The answer is long and explained by many examples, but the main idea was that a paradox is a paradox for us as human beings, for Hashem it is not a paradox at all to create a reality of free will and knowing what we’ll do in parallel 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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