In Parshat Vayelech, Hashem tells Bnai Yisrael “Vaanochi Haster Astir Panai” (31:18). Why does the Torah use the double Lashon of “Haster Astir”? What does “Haster Astir” mean? I heard a very nice interpretation of this seemingly strange Pasuk from my Madrich and good friend, Mordechai Zeller.
The Baal Shem Tov suggested as follows. There are two types of Hester Panim. The first type is when Hashem is hiding from us, similar to a game of hide and seek, and we are looking for Hashem. We know that He is out there, waiting for us to find Him. This is not what the Torah is referring to in this context. Hashem is talking about a much deeper Hester Panim than that. “Vaanochi Haster Astir Panai,” I will hide to an extent that the fact that I am hiding itself will be hidden. Hashem will be in such a deep Hester Panim from Bnai Yisrael that they will not even know that they have to look for Hashem.
There is a concept in Chassidut that when Hashem wrote the Torah, he had in mind for different Parshiot to be read at different times for a predetermined reason to give a message to Am Yisrael. Perhaps this Kriya was predetermined to coincide with the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The world is obviously in a state of Hester Panim when something so tragic and terrible happens. The Rambam in Hilchot Teshuva sees the Shofar as a wake up call yelling “Uru Yeshenim Mishenatchem,” “Wake up from your slumber!” Perhaps our job as Jews is to see through this state of “Haster Astir” and look deep down inside ourselves and wake up from our slumbers in this time of Aseret Yemai Teshuva and see what we can do to worship Hashem as better Jews.