Our Parsha’s final Aliyot describe the assembly of the entire nation on one mountain or another as a series of blessings and then curses are enunciated. Before this took place, the Torah describes the division of the tribes between Mount Gerizim and Mount Eival. The tribe of Levi, the group supplying our Leviim for ministrations in the Mishkan and later the Beis HaMikdash, as well the Kohanim, the Priests, was told to stand in the valley between the two mountains and pronounce a series of blessings and curses that would befall those who obey/disobey the Torah. It is in the form of curses in the Torah, but the implication is that these are preceded by a declaration of blessings corresponding to each line. When you go through the list of statements: people who honor or dishonor parents, or remove a neighbor’s landmark, or make the blind go astray, or pervert justice due the stranger, orphan or widow, one begins to search for the connection between all these statements. The Ibn Ezra, among others, connects them by the simple statement that these verses mention 11 sins that can be committed in secret. When a person does something in public the community and the courts have to respond. But the court cannot actually involve itself with crimes or sins committed in private. Behind closed doors, in the shadow of secrecy, people do commit the worst of offenses. They are not only harming the other person, but they are harming themselves and they can bestow great injury to the welfare of the Jewish nation. This entire chapter is involving itself with what people do in private. One should never think that closing the door and doing what you wish, and thinking you are not harming anyone else, is therefore okay. The sin is deeply ingrained within the individual’s personality, and taken within the fabric of Klal Yisrael the harm might not be easily noticed, but this is something that has to be addressed by every individual. We have to be aware, of course, that Hashem watches everything we do, in public and in private. There is no escaping Hashem. The realization of this fact is perhaps the ultimate upshot of this chapter. We should try to make sure that our dedication and honesty to the Torah commitment is consistent and constant. Just as we should not take a vacation from mitzvah obligations, so, too, we hope and pray that Hashem never takes a vacation from protecting us.
Shabbat Shalom שבת שלום.
Rabbi David Grossman