Nitzavim–Connecting the Dots

The secret things [nistarot, hidden] belong to the LORD our God, but the revealed things [niglot, uncovered] belong to us and to our children forever, to observe all the words of this Torah.  (Deut 29:28)

Some interpreters believe that nistarot refers to undetectable wrongdoings that can only be punished, if at all, by God.   So JPS translates “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.”  On this reading, the verse carries forward a theme of last week’s entry (Ki Tavo—Secret Sins).

But it seems more natural to read this verse as anticipating the theme we just read about on the left: that the Torah is not esoteric, but open, public, available to all.  This verse adds that there is still something hidden.  But that’s the sign that we’re dealing with something real.  Even when the hidden is revealed, there’s still something hidden behind it, another layer of an infinite onion.

If you look at a Hebrew Bible with traditional cantillation marks, you’ll find a riot of dots over the words, “to us and to our children forever.”  Tigay says that such dots usually indicate a problem, although he admits that there is nothing “obviously questionable” about the words.  My untutored reaction when I first saw the dots was to see in them amazement at the gift they had been given: emphasis to the point of ecstasy.

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