OU Torah Insights ProjectParashat Nitzavim
"Hanistoros LaHashem Elokanu vhaniglos lanu ulvananu ad olam lasos es kol divray HaTorah hazos".
This pasuk is recited on Yom Kippur in the Veduy section of each Teffilah. The words Lanu ulvananu are graced with dots on all of their letters. This phenomenon appears several times in the Torah. What exactly is the significance of the dots? What do they convey to us?
Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik z"l once suggested that in ancient civilizations all forms of written communication were etchings in stone. If an error was made or the writer intended to alert the reader that something should not be taken that seriously, it was much too difficult to erase the word or the phrase. Placing a simple dot upon the letter or word was the technique used to highlight the error or to sensitize you to an alternate reading of that word. Apparently, this is the purpose of the dots in the Torah as well. In Parshas Vayishlach the Torah discusses the encounter between Eysau and Yaacov. It reads Vayichabkuhu vayishakuhu, literally translated he embraced and kissed him. Rashi, however, translates Vayihakuhu he bit him. What alerted Rashi to this? The word Vayishakuhu has dots on each of its letters, suggesting that you not take the text literally. Instead of a Nishikah it was a Nishichah.
A second example is found in Parshas Bahalawscha in conjunction with the eligibility to offer Pesach Shayne. It states "Eish eish key yehyeh tame lnefesh oh baderech rechokah". The Mishna in Pesachim records a Machlokes between RAkiva who says Min Hamodein Ulachutz and REliezer who believes Min Haaskufos HaAzara Vlachutz. And RYosi adds Lifichach, Nakod Al "Hay" lomar lecha min Haaskufos HaAzara.
If you do not drop the "Hay" the word reads Rechoka an adjective describing Derech. Hence RAkiva would be correct that we are describing a specific geographic distance form Yerushalym to be eligible to bring Pesach Shayne. However, if you drop the "Hay" the word reads as Rechok, which is modifying the Eish at the beginning of the pasuk. Physically he is standing right outside the Mikdash but mentally and spiritually he is not yet prepared to bring a Korban Pesach on Yud Daled Nisan and include himself in Knesset Yisrael. Consequently, we offer him a second opportunity on Yud Daled Eyar.
Our pasuk conveys the notion that Nistar belongs exclusively to the realm of G-d. Why young children succumb to cancer, why national disasters suddenly wreak havoc on entire communities. But there are certain things which we believe are Niglah and these are given Lanu Ulivananu. We believe that we can comprehend the cause and effect of certain social, economic or historical events. But the dots indicate that even that which we believe is Niglan, truly rests in the hands of HaKodesh Baruch Hu. As we approach the Yemay Hadin we indeed recognize that "Hanistaros Uhaniglos LHaShem Elokaynu". Hopefully, we will at least be privileged to hindsight UReisaw es achurai vpawnai lo yiru.
Rabbi Yosef Adler
Rabbi Adler is rabbi of Congregation Rinat Yisrael in Teaneck, NJ.
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