הַ֨נִּסְתָּרֹ֔ת לַה' אֱלֹקֵ֑ינוּ וְהַנִּגְלֹ֞ת לָ֤ׄנׄוּׄ וּׄלְׄבָׄנֵׄ֙יׄנׄוּׄ֙ עַד־עוֹלָ֔ם לַעֲשׂ֕וֹת אֶת־כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֖י הַתּוֹרָ֥ה הַזֹּֽאת׃ (ס)
Concealed acts concern the LORD our God; but with overt acts, it is for us and our children ever to apply all the provisions of this Teaching.
NJPS: Concealed acts concern the Lord our God; but with overt acts, it is for us and our children ever to apply all the provisions of this Teaching.
Richard Friedman: The hidden things belong to Y-HWH, our God, and the revealed things belong to us and to our children forever, to do all the words of this instruction.
Robert Alter: Things hidden are for the Lord our God and things revealed are for us and for our children forever to do all the words of this teaching.
הנסתרת לה' אלהינו THE SECRET THINGS BELONG UNTO THE LORD OUR GOD — And if you say, “But what can we do? Thou threatenest the many (the whole community) with punishment because of the sinful thoughts of one individual, as it is said, (v. 17): “Lest there should be among you a man, [or a woman or a family … whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord …]”, and afterwards it states, (v. 21) “And they will see the plagues of that land”. But surely no man can know the secret thoughts of his fellow! Now, I reply: I do not threaten to punish you because of secret thoughts for these belong to the Lord our God and He will exact punishment from that individual; but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children that we may put away the evil from our midst; and if we do not execute judgment upon them, the whole community will be punished. — There are dots on the words לנו ולבננו to suggest that even for the revealed sins (those committed openly), He did not punish the community until they had crossed the Jordan — from the moment when they took upon themselves the oath on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal and had thus become responsible for one another (Sanhedrin 43b; cf. Sotah 37b).
(1) הנסתרות לה' אלוקינו, even though I have said that all of you are standing in the presence of the Lord whom it is impossible to mislead and deceive, so that He will collect His dues from everyone who owes him, G’d collects directly only from those whom it is not possible for His appointed representatives, i.e. a legally constituted judiciary to bring to justice. (2) והנגלות לנו ולבננו עד עולם, however, any sins committed publicly must be dealt with by this judiciary, forever, [I suppose the words עד עולם mean that there is no statute of limitations as in gentile countries. Ed.] לעשות את כל דברי התורה הזאת, to avenge G’d‘s having been slighted by the public commission of violations of Torah law, especially those affecting other people directly.
הנסתרות. הטעם מי שיעבוד עבודת כוכבים בסתר לה' אלקינו והטעם כי משפטו ביד השם והוא יפרע ממנו ואם היתה בגלוי חיוב לנו ולבנינו לעשות ככתוב בתורה.
the hidden matters … that is, if someone practices idolatry in secret, it is for God our God — meaning, his judgment will be at the hand of God , Who will punish him; but if it be public, then we, and our descendants, are obliged to do what is written in the Torah.
והנגלת והעבירות הנגלות תלויות בנו ובבנינו אם לא נבער הרע מקרבנו, ולפי שלא תאמר מדה זו נוהגת לעולם נקוד על לנו ולבנינו לומר שמשעברו את הירדן וקבלו את התורה ונעשו ערבים זה לזה אף הנסתרות, לנו ולבנינו.
והנגלות, ”but the sins committed publicly, etc,” dealing with deliberate sins committed in full view of the public must be dealt with by the judiciary by both you and your children, as otherwise such phenomena cannot be eradicated from your midst. This law becomes effective from the moment the Jewish people will cross the river Jordan. From that moment on their acceptance of the covenant with G-d meant that each individual Jew shared in the responsibility for the conduct of each fellow Jew. From that moment on we also became responsible.
הנסתרות לה' אלהינו. לפי שכתוב והבדילו ה' לרעה ואח"כ הדור האחרון דמשמע דכל הארץ ילקו ע"י איש אחד או משפחה אחת לכך כתי' הנסתרות לה' אלהינו והוא דיין ליפרע מן העושה הרעה לשלם לו גמולו ולא ילקו ישראל עליו אבל הנגלות העבירות שעשו בגלוי לנו ולבנינו העונש אם לא נבער הרע מקרבנו. ובסנהדרין מסיק למה נקוד לנו ולבנינו ועל עי"ן שבעד עולם שלא ענש על הנסתרות עד שעברו את הירדן פי' שאז קבלו התורה כאחד ונעשו ערבים זה לזה אז הנסתרות לנו ולבנינו. ואי קשיא א"כ דממעטי' נסתרות מלה' היה לו לינקד על ה' אלהינו י"ל שאין זה דרך כבוד לינקוד על השם שיהא נמחק ולפי שדין הנקודה להיות על ה' אלהינו ומהפכין אותה ליתנה על לנו ולבנינו לפיכך נקודה ע' שבעד להשלים י"א אותיות נקודות כנגד לה' שיש בו י"א אותיות. ובמסורת הגדולה שנינו דבעי על הנקודה הזאת דלנו ולבנינו למאי אתא. ומשני שכך אמר עזרא הסופר כשכתב בתורה אם יבא משה רבינו וישאל למה כתבת זה אומר לו לכך נקדתי עליהם ואם יאמר יפה כתבת אעביר הנקודה מעליהם משמע שהיה מסופק בנגלות אם הם לנו ולבנינו קודם שעברו ישראל את הירדן אם לאו ולפי' נקד עליהם. ומכאן קצת ראיה לאותם הכותבים פסוק בלא שרטוט שנוקדין על ב' תיבות קודם שיכתבו השלישי לפי שהנקודה כמחק מדקאמר עזרא לפיכך נקדתי עליהם והוי כאלו לא כתבתים:
הנסתרות לה' אלוקינו, “concealed acts concern the Lord our G–d;” seeing that the Torah had written in verse 20 of our chapter that G–d singles out individual sinners for retribution,” and verse 21 sounds as if the sins of a single individual could cause G–d to react angrily against the whole people, or at least against a whole family all on account of that single rebellious Jew, Moses now reassures the people that precisely because He is omniscient and knows what goes on in the hearts of each one of us, He will deal with the individual who is guilty and not engage in punishing the innocent as “collateral damage.” However, sins committed openly, and ignored by the judiciary, thereby constituting collective guilt by the people who had appointed corrupt judges, will become the subject of what for the uninitiated looks like collective punishment. In fact, the retribution for openly committed sins and tolerated by the courts, will result in the punishment extending beyond a single generation as long as we do not wipe out the phenomenon of open rebellion against the covenant that the whole people had voluntarily entered into with Hashem. The Talmud in tractate Sanhedrin, folio 43 points out that the dots above the letters לנו ולבנינו and above the letter ע of the word עד, are to inform us that as long as the Israelites had not crossed the river Jordan and been on sacred ground, G–d had not punished anyone for sins committed in private, not witnessed by even family members. The reason for this was that only after crossing the Jordan did the Jews accept the Torah individually and collectively, so that each Israelite became responsible also for the sins committed by his fellow Jew. At that point what is written the words לנו ולבנינו, “for us and our children,” became applicable. If you were to query that if the above were correct, why is the last dot on the word על instead of on ה' אלוקינו, perhaps the reason is that it would be inappropriate to do this when it is subject to being erased. The words: lashem elokeynu in Hebrew including the tetragram that I cannot spell out here, comprise eleven letters, and that is why our sages place 11 dots to hint to us that this is where the dots really should have been. [Since no Israelite who had not yet crossed the river Jordan ever saw a Torah scroll with these eleven dots, I find the interpretation offered quite irrelevant. Ed.] According to a text known as massoret hag’dolah, the dots are attributed to when Ezra had to rewrite the Torah after the redemption when different scrolls had variations in the text, and the time would come when Moses would challenge him why he had not done it differently, he would explain that because of his doubts he had placed the dots on top. If Moses would be satisfied with the way Ezra had done it, it would be easy to erase the dots without harming the text of the Torah scroll. From this it is clear that Ezra had his doubts about G–d not holding us responsible for not interfering when becoming aware of sins committed prior to crossing the Jordan.
וְאֵלּוּ לִגְנַאי, שֶׁל בֵּית גַּרְמוּ לֹא רָצוּ לְלַמֵּד עַל מַעֲשֵׂה לֶחֶם הַפָּנִים. שֶׁל בֵּית אַבְטִינָס לֹא רָצוּ לְלַמֵּד עַל מַעֲשֵׂה הַקְּטֹרֶת. הֻגְרַס בֶּן לֵוִי הָיָה יוֹדֵעַ פֶּרֶק בַּשִּׁיר וְלֹא רָצָה לְלַמֵּד. בֶּן קַמְצָר לֹא רָצָה לְלַמֵּד עַל מַעֲשֵׂה הַכְּתָב. עַל הָרִאשׁוֹנִים נֶאֱמַר (משלי י), זֵכֶר צַדִּיק לִבְרָכָה. וְעַל אֵלּוּ נֶאֱמַר (שם) וְשֵׁם רְשָׁעִים יִרְקָב:
And these they mentioned to their shame: Those of the House of Garmu did not want to teach anything about the preparation of the showbread. Those of the House of Avtinas did not teach to anything about the preparation of the incense. Hugros, a Levite knew a chapter [concerning] the song but did not want to teach it. Ben Kamtzar did not want teach anyone his art of writing. Concerning the former it is said: “The memory of the righteous shall be for a blessing” (Proverbs 10:7); concerning the others it is said: “But the name of the wicked shall rot.”
Third, shared suffering is expressed in a feeling of shared obligation and responsibility. When the children of Israel left Egypt, Moses and Aaron fell on their faces, pleaded before God, and said: “Lord, God of Hosts of all flesh, shall one man sin and You direct divine wrath at the entire congregation?” (Numbers 16:22).This prayer accomplished that which the “shepherds of Israel” (Ezekiel 34:2) sought. The Holy One agreed with their action and only punished Korah and his cohorts. However, God only demonstrated this loving-kindness momentarily. Forever after, the “I” is ensnared in the sin of his fellow, if he had it within his power to reprimand, admonish, and bring his neighbor to repentance. The people of Israel have a collective responsibility, both halakhic and moral, for one another. The discrete units coalesce into a single halakhic-moral unity, with one all-encompassing and normative conscience and consciousness. The halakhah has already decreed that “all Jews are sureties for one another” (TB Shavu’ot 39a), such that one who has already fulfilled his personal mitzvah is not considered fully absolved thereby and may therefore fulfill the obligation on behalf of others who have not as yet done so. The “I” is not exempt from its obligation so long as his neighbor has not fulfilled that which is incumbent upon him. There is a special covenant of mutual responsibility among the children of Israel. This covenant is expressed in the blessings and imprecations pronounced on Mounts Gerizim and Ebal (Deuteronomy 11:29). It is based upon the notion of peoplehood revealed to Moses in Egypt. Out of this concept grew the covenant of mutual obligation. Moses, the dean of all prophets, in relating this covenant of mutual obligation, emphasized: “For that He may establish you today unto Him as a people, and He shall be unto you as a God” (Deuteronomy 29:12). He thus returned to the formulation of the Covenant of Egypt. “And I will take you to Me as a people, and I will be your God” (Exodus 6:7). Here the notion of shared fate was elevated from the plane of communal-political suffering to that of halakhic and moral responsibility. We are all sureties for one another, as it is said: “And the revelations belong to us and to our children forever” (Deuteronomy 29:28).12
Daniel J. Elazar Deuteronomy as Israel’s Ancient Constitution: Some Preliminary Reflections
The conclusion of the covenant emphasizes that the constitution was openly given to the Israelites for them to live by. It is the opposite of those secret things that belong to God. At the conclusion of the covenant ceremony there is a final word reemphasizing that the constitution is close and not distant, that the people are given a choice between good and evil, and that heaven and earth witnessed the covenant, seals the matter.
Rabbi David Levin-Kruss
In a very delicate way, the two parts of this verse get to the heart of what healthy religion is. On one hand, religion needs to be sufficiently open and revealing so that people understand what they are doing and why. To some extent, biblical religion was taking a stand against hidden knowledge in the human realm. Many ancient religious priesthoods derived much of their power by claiming secret knowledge that gave them access to the gods, knowledge that they would not share. Israelite religion, according to this verse, is revealed religion. The rules are known to all and the ability to live life in line with the will of God is available to all—the information is not in heaven and the commandments are “close by.”
(ה) עשר נקודות בתורה... למה אלא כך אמר עזרא אם יבא אליהו ויאמר לי מפני מה כתבת כך אומר אני לו כבר נקדתי עליהן ואם אומר לי יפה כתבת אעביר נקודה מעליהן.
These are the ten dotted passages in the Torah…and why are there dots over all these letters? None other than that Ezra said: If Elijah were to come and say: Why did you write that, I will answer him: I have already put dots over them. And if he says to me: You wrote it well, then I will remove the dots above them
Rav Mordechai Breuer “Emunah ve-Mada` be-Nusah ha-Mikra”
The Holy One, blessed be He, did not give His Torah to scribes who are ministering angels; rather, to scribes of flesh and blood who write His Torah, to human beings who reads its letters. And as is the way of human beings, they are prone to err—or to be of different opinions as to the tradition of the text as written and as read…These things apply to every verse, every word, and every letter appearing in the version of the Bible in our hands. Even if science could prove that here and there the ruling of the majority was in error—and we have no reason to believe such a thing to be impossible—that does not detract from the sanctity of the text. The very same “error,” once accepted by the majority of Israel’s Sages—it, too, is part of the Torah, and it too must be studied…and may be interpreted, not only by way of homily and mystical interpretation, but also by way of expounding the plain sense.