The Torah often speaks of what will befall our people if we abandon the teaching of Hashem. One glaring example is found in the second paragraph of the Shema. We are told if we turn away from Hashem then He will restrain the heavens and there will be no rain. This, of course, will lead to famine and utter destruction.
In the portion of VaYelech which we read this week we come across a different threat. Hashem says: VA’ANOCHI HASTER ASTIR PANAI, “…and I will surely hide My face…”. (Deut. 31,18) This implies that Hashem will not mete out the punishment Himself but will merely look away and leave us to the whims of other men.
There is a vast difference between punishment dispensed by Hashem and that of man. Hashem is known as RACHUM VECHANUN, merciful and gracious. Even when He punishes He is compassionate. He is like a parent punishing a child. The punishment hurts the parent more than the child.
When the reprimand is left up to man he can be extremely vicious, cruel and brutal. As proof of how inhuman man can be we need but look at the Holocaust and at what is happening today in the four corners the earth. VA’ANOCHI HASTER ASTIR PANAI can be a horrifying experience.