Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach all!
We are in the midst of a very busy time. Not only do we have our annual ShnatSem and HadSem in Melbourne and Sydney respectively, but we also find ourselves in the middle of celebrating the process of the Exodus. The eight days of Pesach are the eight days of Exodus and escape from Egypt and so whilst we celebrate Seder on day one and two, in reality, the celebrations continue for a while longer.
This week's portion digresses from the regular order to accommodate for Pesach in which we read a particular portion each day. This year we read an excerpt from Exodus. I would like to focus on two passages in particular:
ויֹּאמַ֑ר הַרְאֵ֥נִי נָ֖א אֶת־כְּבֹדֶֽךָ
He said "let me behold your presence"
וַהֲסִרֹתִי֙ אֶת־כַּפִּ֔י וְרָאִ֖יתָ אֶת־אֲחֹרָ֑י וּפָנַ֖י לֹ֥א יֵרָאֽוּ׃
then I will take My hand away and you will see My back, but My face must not be
This is the famous passage in which God reveals himself to Moses. But only partially. God admits that Moses, and humans, in general, are incapable of experiencing the full presence of God. The experience is described to so overwhelming that one cannot live through the experience.
But let us ask the fundamental question, how can God have a face, or a back for that matter, or legs, or even a voice? Do such suggestions not suggest some sort heresy? By extension is God having a voice or for that matter, conversations with the divine heretical?
A compelling question.
Let me try and attempt to answer this question in a somewhat strange way. Let us explain the divine through human experience.
In our day to day lives, we experience a limited range of emotions. We go through the standard and mundane feelings of happy, sad, tired, hungry and so on. We rarely experience infinite love, grief, loss or bliss. When we are faced with situations that force us to expand our emotional lexicon, we are often lost for words. How can we describe what a loved one meant to us? How can we fully encapsulate a wonderful experience? We use words to approximate our feelings. We try and find the best word to guess how we feel, some words express the feelings better than others, but in general, the more complex the emotion the greater the gap is between the guess and our true feeling.
And so when we describe God what we are really doing is trying to approximate his being in a way we can describe. God cannot be described. He can only be approximated.
I bless us all that in times of emotional complexity, both good and bad, that we search for the right words to help us along the way.
Wishing a long life to the Frelich and Sussman Families.