Removing the veils

How is it that Moses is speaking face to face with God and yet cannot see God’s face?

March 2, 2011 16:20
4 minute read.
God's face

God's face 521. (photo credit: Avi Katz)


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ONE OF THE THINGS THAT DRIVES RABBIS CRAZY is the ubiquitous question at the Kiddush table by someone they don’t immediately recognize. “Rabbi!” the person exclaims. “Do you remember my name?” Oy vey. I probably officiated at a baby naming of their third cousin’s sister-in-law 20 years ago. “Umm, your face is familiar but I can’t recall your name…,” I stammer. And add, “At my age, my dear, I’m happy if I remember my own name!” Names and faces are the tools by which we humans communicate with one another. When we attach a face to a name, an identity is cemented in our minds. When the Nazis wanted to dehumanize the Jews, they took away their names and gave them numbers. When a regime wants to render its women invisible, it takes away their faces, giving them long black veils.

Just as we know each other by our names and faces, we mistakenly believe we can know God the same way. In the Torah portion of Ki Tisa, Moses wants to see God’s face. Although he already knows God’s name – (Exodus 6:2- 3): “I am YHVH. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as El-Shaddai but by my Name YHVH I was not yet known to them” – Moses wants to see God’s face.


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