The Torah uses the unique word “afeihem” when describing the potential consequences of abandoning G-d’s path, “I said that I would make an end of them (32:26)”. “I will end them,” “I will put them in a corner,” and “I will cast them away as ownerless” are but a few of the possible translations that Rashi offers. Why would the Torah use a vague word that is difficult to translate, particularly when conveying G-d’s reaction to our abandoning Him?
Rav S. R. Hirsch frames all three of these translations into one poetic and cohesive idea. Sometimes ending a downward spiral requires a time out, time away to pause and regain our footing. Being cast away in a corner is not necessarily a punishment rather an opportunity for self-reflection. We come to understand yet another meaning when The word “afeihem” can also be broken down into three other words, af-ei-hem, meaning “but-where-are they?” With the proper perspective, events in our lives that we thought were unfortunate can help us find our way.