"צור ילדתך תשי ותשכח א-ל מחללך"
“You forgot the rock Who gave birth to you and forgot G‑d Who brought you forth.” (32:18)

QUESTION: Why does Moshe mention the Jews’ forgetting of Hashem twice?

ANSWER: There was once a person who owed money to many creditors. Unable to bear the pressure and demands for payments which came from all sides, he consulted a friend who, incidentally, was also one of his creditors. The friend advised him, “From now on when anyone comes asking for payment, act insane so that the creditor will think you have lost your mind and stop bothering you.” Once, when the friend himself came to demand payment, the debtor began to act demented, hoping to put him off. Angrily the creditor said to him, “Don’t act crazy in front of me — it was my idea!”

Among the many gifts Hashem has endowed man with is the power of shikchah — forgetfulness. Thus, when one is, G‑d forbid, confronted with trials and tribulations he is able to remove his mind from them, and go on with his life. Moshe said to the Jewish people, “tzur yeldecha — the rock Who gave birth to you — [has instilled in you a gift, the power of] teshi — to forget. The problem is that “vatishkach Keil mecholelecha” — you are using this power of forgetfulness to also forget Hashem, Who brought you forth and Who does so much for you.”

(המגיד מדובנא ור' מנחם מענדל זצ"ל מקאצק)

"אסתירה פני מהם אראה מה אחריתם"
“I shall hide My face from them and see what their end will be.” (32:20)

QUESTION: What would be the end of Klal Yisrael if, G‑d forbid, Hashem would hide His face and not look after their welfare?

ANSWER: There is no question in anyone’s mind what would happen with the Jewish people, G‑d forbid, if Hashem were to stop taking an interest in them, and it is unnecessary for the Torah to raise such a question. However, Hashem is expressing His infinite love forKlal Yisrael and is saying that even in a time when it appears as if “Astirah panai meihem” — “I shall hide My face from them” — yet, “er’eh” — I will look after their welfare and attend to “acharitam” — “their end” — i.e. everything be well for them in the future.

(דברי יחזקאל)

"לו חכמו ישכילו זאת יבינו לאחריתם"
“Were they wise they would comprehend this, they would understand what their end would be.” (32:29)

QUESTION: The word “zot” — “this” — is superfluous?

ANSWER: In the prayers on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we proclaim, “U’teshuvah u’tefillah u’tzedakah ma’avirin et ro’ah hagezeirah” — “Repentance, prayer, and charity avert the severity of the decree.” In all machzorim above these words are printed in small letters, “kol, tzom, mamon” (קול, צום, ממון) — “Voice (of prayer), fasting, money (for charity).” The merit of the Jewish people is determined by how they excel in these three things, and the total numerical value of the three is four hundred and eight, which is also the numerical value of the word “zot” (זאת).

This pasuk, which is read usually during the High Holiday season, is hinting that “Were they wise they would comprehend ‘zot’ — the achievements that are derived through — ‘kol, tzom, and mamon’ — ‘voice, fast, and money’ ” — and “yavinu” — they would understand that it plays an important role — “le’acharitam” — for their future, i.e., through it they will merit to be inscribed in the Book of Life with all the best, materially and spiritually.

Hashem challenges the Jewish people, “Ubechanuni na bezot” — “Test Me, if you will, with ‘zot’ — ‘this’ ” (Malachi 3:10), i.e. perform the three things which add up to “zot” — four hundred and eight — and “[See] if I do not open for you the windows of Heaven and pour out upon you blessings without end.”

Unfortunately, there are people who do not realize or refuse to recognize what can be accomplished through these three things. King David says of such people, “Ukesil lo yavin et zot” — “A fool cannot understand ‘zot’ — ‘this’ ” (Psalms 92:7), i.e. the importance of ‘kol, tzom and mamon’ which have the same numerical value (408) as the word ‘zot.’

(בית יעקב ר' יעקב הכהן ז"ל טראב – מסלתון ראב"ד ביירות)

"ראו עתה כי אני אני הוא ואין אלהים עמדי"
“See, now, that I, I am He and no god is with Me.” (32:39)

QUESTION: 1) The word “atah” — “now” seems superfluous. 2) Why is “ani” — “I” repeated twice?

ANSWER: According to the Kabbalists (see Megaleh Amukot) there are a total of nine hundred and fifty-five heavens, and in each heaven there are angels of different ranks. Angels cannot enter the top fifty-five heavens, however, which are reserved exclusively for Hashem’s eminence. An allusion to this in the Torah is found in the pasuk, “Hein laHashem Elokecha hashamayim ushemei hashamayim” — “Behold to G‑d, your G‑d, belong the heavens and the highest heavens” (10:14), and the word “hein” (הן) has the numerical value of fifty-five.

In all of Devarim, which was said by Moshe to Klal Yisrael, there are a total of nine hundred and fifty-five pesukim. From the beginning of the book until this pasuk are nine hundred pesukim, and from this pasuk until the end are the additional fifty-fivepesukim. With each pasuk Moshe said, he penetrated one of the heavens and encountered angels of all ranks. Upon reaching the nine hundred and first heaven, where there were no angels but only Hashem himself, Moshe said that Hashem says, “See now that I, I am He, and no god is with Me,” repeating “ani” — “I” — to emphasize that there are angels in all other heavens, but here “I” — Hashem — am present all alone.

(קול אליהו)

"מחצתי ואני ארפא ואין מידי מציל"
“I wounded and I heal, and there is no rescuer from My hand.” (32:39)

QUESTION: It should have said the reverse, “There is no rescuer from My hand; I wound and I heal”?

ANSWER: An ill chassid who many doctors were unable to help, desperately visited his Rebbe for a blessing and advice. He was told, “Consult the professor in the town of Anipoli. He will cure you.” The ailing chassid spared no effort or money and made the arduous trip. Upon arrival he was disappointed to learn that there was no professor, no doctor, and not even a medical attendant in the tiny hamlet of Anipoli. Dumbfounded, he returned to his Rebbe and told him that in Anipoli there were no medical experts.

“Then tell me,” asked the Rebbe, “What do the people of Anipoli do when someone, G‑d forbid, is sick?”

“What do they do?” said the chassid, “I suppose they have no other option but to trust in Hashem and ask Him to send the healing from Heaven.”

“He is the One,” exclaimed the Rebbe. “That is the professor of Anipoli that I referred you to. Put your faith in Hashem and He who helps the people of Anipoli will surely help you too.”

Hashem is saying, “Machatzti” — “I wounded” — “ve’ani erpeh” — “and I heal,” [whenthe person realizes that] “ve’ein miyadi matzil” — “there is no rescuer from My hand” — i.e. he honestly believes that it is not the doctors who bring healing, but Hashem.

(דגן שמים על מםכת ראש השנה, ועי' סיפורי חסידים ע' 168)

* * *

In this pasuk the word “Ani” is mentioned four times, which is an allusion to what the Gemara (Megillah 29a) says that Hashem is always with the Jewish people, and that even when they go into galut exile — the Shechinah — Divine Presence — is there together with them. Since the exiles of the Jewish people are associated with four monarchies: Edom, i.e. Rome, Media/Persia, Babylon, and Greece, “Ani,” which is a reference to the Shechinah, is written four times.

(נחל קדומים)

"ויבא משה וידבר את כל דברי השירה הזאת באזני העם הוא והושע בן נון"
“And Moshe came and spoke all the words of this song in the ears of the people, he, and Hoshea the son of Nun.” (32:44)

QUESTION: Many years earlier Moshe had changed the name of Hoshea (הושע) to Yehoshua (יהושע) (Bamibdar 13:16). Why is he now called “Hoshea”?

ANSWER: According to the Jerusalem Talmud (Sanhedrin 2:6), when Hashem changed the name of the matriarch Sarai (שרי) to Sarah (שרה), He comforted the yud (י) by telling it that eventually it would be added to the beginning of a man’s name. Sarah’s name-change took place one year before the birth of Yitzchak. so she was then eighty-nine years old. Since Sarah passed away at the age of one hundred and twenty-seven, her name-change was in effect for thirty-eight years of her life.

In the second year after the Jewish people’s departure from Egypt, Moshe sent the spies to tour CanaanEretz Yisrael. At that time he prayed for Hoshea and added the "י" from Sarah’s name to his name. Moshe’s death took place at the end of the forty years of the Jews’ sojourn in the wilderness. This pasuk is talking about Moshe’s last Shabbat on earth, which was exactly thirty-eight years after he took the "י" from Sarah and added it to Yehoshua. Therefore, on this particular day, which marked the completion of the thirty-eight years the "י" was originally supposed to be part of Sarah’s name, Moshe called him by his original name, Hoshea.

(משיב דברים)

Alternatively, the Targum Yonatan ben Uziel (Bamidbar 13:16) writes that when Moshe observed the humbleness of Hoshea, he added to his name the "י", which is the smallest letter of the alef-beit, and thus a symbol of humbleness, calling him Yehoshua.

This pasuk discusses the Shabbat when the authority was taken from Moshe and given to Yehoshua. Now that Yehoshua was becoming the new leader of Klal Yisrael, his Rebbe Moshe referred to him as Hoshea (omitting the "י"). He was telling him “As the leader of the Jewish community it is necessary that you be highly respected and feared by all. No longer may you humble yourself before all as you did until now” (see Ketubot 103b).

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר)

"כי לא דבר רק הוא מכם"
“For it is not an empty thing for you [lit. from you].” (32:47)

QUESTION: It should have just said “for it is not an empty thing.” The word “mikem” — “for you” — is superfluous?

ANSWER: Moshe was telling the people, “If you find an emptiness, i.e. unsatisfying quality, in Torah — the failure stems ‘mikem’ — ‘from you.’ Obviously your effort and diligence is insufficient.

(ירושלמי פאה פ"א ה"א)

Alternatively, the Gemara (Chagigah 9b) says, “One who repeats his chapter one hundred times is not to be compared with one who repeats it one hundred and one times.” When it was customary to review one’s studies one hundred times, one hundred and one times would accomplish much more. For doing more than normal, the success experienced is not just proportional to the additional times, but far greater (see Tanya, ch. 15).

The word “mikem” — “from you” — has the numerical value of one hundred. The pasuk is teaching us that should you find Torah unsatisfying, the reason is “mikem” — the fault lies in you — you are only studying it 100 times, i.e. not exceeding your normal routine.

(פנינים יקרים בשם נתיבות עולם)