Last year during the containment days, as we waited out one of the upward curves of Covid-19, we played our fair share of games of hide and seek. One hide and seek benefit for the parents? When it was our turn to hide, we’d get to hide in a dark room and have a few minutes of solitude while still giving the kids something fun to do. And on the kids’ turn to hide, we could sit down with a book or a cup of coffee for a few minutes, and “pretend” we couldn’t find them. When everyone was home all the time, this would give us a few moments of reprieve to recharge ourselves before we had to return to what seemed like an endless stream of education, entertainment, breaking up fights, and fighting boredom. I’m proud to say only once did the kids get so bored of hiding that they actually gave up on the game and revealed their own location.
Our Torah portion this week, Parshat Vayelech, recounts something similar to hide and seek with God and the Israelites. This week we read of the difficulty leaders have in transferring over their power, in particular the final days of Moshe and the gift of life he had in living 120 years. The Israelites approach the land promised to them and witness the transfer of power to Joshua. Finally, Moshe writes the words of the Torah and passes down the commandment to the Kohanim to read the Torah. Moshe’s final moments with the Israelites are near, and he prepares for this by coming up with a transfer of legacy, tradition, and history.
In chapter 31, verse 17 we read that God speaks to Moses and says, “I will abandon them and hide My countenance from them.” Basically, God’s presence depends on the Israelites living by the laws that have been given to them, and if they don’t follow in God’s ways, God will hide from them, and terrible things will happen. What would happen if people stopped looking for God and then stopped following the mitzvot altogether? It could lead to the breakdown of the beautiful society God worked so hard for the Israelites to build and maintain.
The concept of hide and seek goes beyond physically hiding. Whether you’re searching for a person or a solution to a problem, it’s the discovery that keeps us engaged. Without finding answers, without learning, we lose interest and life becomes chaotic and depressing. Without the interaction and mutual understanding to be in partnership, our entire relationship with God would fall apart. Parshat Vayelech is the reminder that our relationship with God is not static. It changes and grows based only on how we continue to seek and find holiness. and connect. In order to go, to move forward on our path in life it is essential not to be passive in looking for that which brings us meaning, but to engage, to look and to connect in any way we can.