Following World War II, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Isaac Herzog visited this country. Chicago was one of the cities on his itinerary. At the airport, a large crowd – from community leaders to young school children – greeted him. For those unfamiliar, Rabbi Herzog cut a majestic figure with his silver tipped cane and his signature top hat. He was always eloquent and inspiring. That day was no exception. When he concluded his speech, his face slowly lost its joy and radiance. In fact he became quite somber.
“I come not from Jerusalem,” he told the assembled, “but from Rome where I met with Pope Pius.
“During the War, many Jewish children were sheltered in monasteries throughout Europe where kind Christians saved them from the Nazis. I asked the Pope to release those children back to their heritage to be raised as Jews.” Suddenly, to the shock of the children and the awe of the adults, the Rabbi began to cry.
“The Pope did not acquiesce. He said that once a child is baptized, he can never be returned.”
Rabbi Herzog trembled as he continued to sob uncontrollably. He looked at the assembled children
“My dear kinder Lech,” he wailed, “We lost them!” Suddenly his demeanor changed, as a ray of hope sparkled from his eyes. “We lost them,” he repeated. “But,” he continued, as he locked his eyes at the young faces, who stared directly at his teary eyes, “WE HAVE YOU! WE HAVE YOU!”
In his final days, Moses warns his fellow Jews of dire days that are bound to come. “Sulfur and salt, a conflagration of the entire Land…like the upheaval of Sodom and Gomorrah.” Certainly, the events Moses describes are severe, even apocalyptic. But what strikes many of the commentaries are the words that immediately follow these predictions of doom: “The hidden is for Hashem, but the revealed are for us and our children to carry out all the words of this Torah.”
What exactly are the ‘hidden’ and the ‘revealed’ referring to? According to many, it means that the hidden sins are not ours to worry about, but those failings which are revealed must be dealt with by society. One must wonder why Moses would have to distinguish between them: do we not realize that G-d alone is privy to sins committed in hiding?
Perchance this verse, so cryptic, relays a message of hope. The hidden is for G-d: This means that sometimes there are no answers for mortal minds; they are hidden with G-d. “But the revealed are for us.” Those of us remaining, however, must deal with what we do know. We must build from the ashes of our despair; from the crematories of Auschwitz, from the embers of eateries in Jerusalem and tunnels in Gaza, or from the scarred skeletons of a Manhattan skyline.
Those we lose are “hidden with Hashem (upstairs),” but our task is for those still here, referred to as “the revealed,” as in, “our children… to carry out all the words of this Torah.”
PICTURE taken in 1959 of Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog (1888 –1959): He was the first Chief Rabbi of Ireland from 1921-1936. From 1937 until his death in 1959, he was Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of the British Mandate of Palestine and of Israel after its independence.