For an explanation of the methodology of this series, see the introduction.

"The hidden things belong to the L-rd, our G‑d, but the revealed things apply to us and to our children forever: that we must fulfill all the words of this Torah." (Deut. 29:28)

Peshat (basic meaning):

Rashi: "The hidden things belong to the L-rd, our G‑d" man can know the secret thoughts of his fellow... Now, you might object [to God, saying]: "But what can we do? You punish the entire community because of the sinful thoughts of an individual, as Scripture says, ‘Perhaps there is among you a man?’ (verse 17 above), and after this, Scripture continues, ‘Seeing the plagues of that land [and the diseases with which the Lord struck it]’ (verse 21) [which seems to indicate that for the sinful thought of even one individual, the whole land would be struck down with plagues and diseases]. But surely no man can know the secret thoughts of his fellow [that we could somehow prevent this collective punishment!?

In answer to this, God says: "I will not punish you for the hidden things!" because "[The hidden things] belong to the Lord, our God," He will only exact punishment upon that particular individual [who sins in secret]. However, "the revealed things apply to us and to our children" [that is, we are responsible for detecting the sins committed openly in our community, and] to eradicate any evil among us. And if we do not execute judgment upon these [open transgressions, over which we do have control], then the whole community will be punished [because they would be remiss in their responsibility].

There is a dot placed over [each letter of] the words ‘to us and to our children’ here, to teach us homiletically that even for open sins [which were not brought to judgment, God] did not punish the whole community until Israel crossed the Jordan. For then, they accepted upon themselves the oath at Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, and thereby [formally] became responsible for one another. (Sanhedrin 43b) [When dots are placed over letters of the Torah, this denotes an exclusion of some sort. In our context, our Rabbis teach us that the exclusion refers to the period prior to the crossing of the Jordan.]

Derash (interpretive meaning):

Targum Yonatan: The secret things are manifest before the L-rd our G‑d, and He will take vengeance for them; but the things that are revealed are delivered unto us and to our children for ever, to perform by them the thing that is right, for the confirmation of all the words of this law

Ramban: "The secret things" are the sins hidden from those who commit them. Our hidden sins belong to G‑d alone, for we bear no guilt for having transgressed them unknowingly. "But the things that are revealed," namely our conscious sins, they belong to us. We accepted the command to perform all the commandments, and excluded from the ban would be one who commits a sin unintentionally so that he would not be afflicted by the curse. The words of Onkelos indicate this, but he should have said, "The secret things are to the L-rd our G‑d to punish".

...they accept the responsibility to try and stop sins being committed in public.

Ohr HaChayim: This verse is the response of the Jewish people to Moses that he cannot hold them responsible for sins committed by fellow Jews in private. However, they accept the responsibility to try and stop sins being committed in public.

Kotzker Rebbe: Other Chasidim perform the commandments in public and their sins in private. My Chasidim commit their sins in public and observe the commandments in private.

Tzeror Hamor: Moses adds an important rule for us to remember whenever we fell inclined to question G‑d's judgment. G‑d has reserved the right for Himself to reveal answers only to the selected few. It seems that G‑d is venting his anger not only at the entire people but at their land too! But the multitude who were aware of the deviations of individuals from the norms of Judaism and did not try to reason with such a person or restrain him in any way, became a partner to his sins, doubling and redoubling G‑d's anger. In spite of the fact that apparently righteous people share the same fate as openly sinful folks, Moses reminds all that G‑d, being G‑d, withholds some of the pertinent facts of every personal case history.

Sod (esoteric, mystical meaning):

Zohar Shelach 159:
Rabbi Yehuda was walking along the way with Rabbi Aba. He said: I wish to ask you one thing. Since G‑d was aware that Adam was going to commit sin in His presence and that He would sentence him to death, why did He create him? Didn't the Torah exist 2,000 years prior to the creation of the world? It is written: "When a man dies in a tent," (Num. 19:14) "if a man die," "and...died" and "such and such lived and died." What did G‑d want from man in this world? If man studies Torah day and night he will die, and if he does not study Torah he will die. The same course applies to all, except that he gets removed from the World to Come. As it is written: "As is the good, so is the sinner." (Eccl. 9:2)

He said to him: Why do you need to toil in the ways of your Master and the edicts of your Master? Ask about that which you have permission to know and gaze at, and about that which you have no permission to know, it is written: "Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin," (Eccl. 5:5) since we have no right to inquire about the ways of G‑d and His mysteries, the utmost high secrets that He covered and hid. He said to him: If so, the entire Torah is concealed and hidden, since it is the most Holy Name and whoever studies the Torah, it is as if he deals in His Holy Name. If so, we are not permitted to inquire and gaze.

He said to him: The entire Torah is both concealed and revealed and the Holy Name is both concealed and revealed, as it is written: "The secret things belong to the L-rd our G‑d, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children." (Deut. 29:28) "But those things which are revealed belong to us," meaning that we have permission to inquire and observe and gaze at them to know them. However, "the secret things belong to the L-rd our G‑d": They are His and to Him they are proper, since who could know and comprehend His concealed mind, let alone even ask about it.
The people of the world are not permitted to talk about the concealed matters and explain them...
The people of the world are not permitted to talk about the concealed matters and explain them, besides the holy luminary, Rabbi Shimon, since G‑d acceded to him. Since his generation is distinguished above and below, the matters are therefore said through him openly. There will be no other generation like the generation that he resides in, until the coming of King Mashiach.

BeRahamim LeHayyim:
The Baal Shem Tov—whose 250th anniversary was this past Shabbat— one Rosh Hashanah did a spiritual ascent where he met the Mashiach, who told him that he would come when the Baal Shem Tov's wellsprings of Chassidic teachings reached all.

There are today sure signs of the footsteps of Mashiach. Technology lets us communicate these teachings effortlessly around the globe in an instant. Right now, there are those of you reading this in the US, Israel, and Canada, in Spain, in Chile, in Brazil, in South Africa, in Australia, in Japan, and in China. What a wonderful, wonderful world!

The entire Torah is really one long Name of G‑d, which is why one defective letter invalidates the whole scroll. This one long Name is a secret to the L-rd our G‑d, but the breakdown into verses, into initial and final and intermediate letters, that is revealed for us.

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