Together, we see the Face of God (Ki Tisa)
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity. -Psalms 133:1
Students of the Torah text are familiar with a classic quandary. At Mount Sinai, Moses encounters God. The Torah describes the meeting as follows:
“And God would speak to Moses face to face, as one person speaks to another.” -Exodus 33:11
However, just a few verses later, when Moses asks to see God’s Presence, God replies:
“But you cannot see My face, for a human being may not see Me and live.” -Exodus 33:20
Rabbinic commentators provide a multiplicity of answers to explain the conundrum. The Bat Ayin explains that neither verse is talking about absolute conditions. It’s not that Moses always spoke with God “face to face” or that no human can ever “see” God (however we understand those concepts). The ability to “see” God’s “face” is a function of time and particular circumstances.
He elaborates that God is the ultimate “One.” God is Unity and Unified and One in an absolute way that we can’t understand. However, there is another entity that also has the potential to be One and Unified, namely, the nation of Israel. When we are together and united the divine presence more readily rests upon us. It was at that point in history, at the foot of Mount Sinai, at the receipt of the Ten Commandments, that the nation of Israel was united “as one man with one heart.” Because Moses so identified with that unity of the people, because he mirrored that oneness, he was able to speak to God face to face.
However, after the sin of the Golden Calf, after the nation descended into sin and discord, that unity was lost. And even Moses, the greatest of the prophets, could no longer base his prophetic powers on the unity of the people and therefore could no longer encounter God in the same way.
May we make greater efforts to see our brothers “face to face” and strive for an understanding of each other and a unity that is vital for our nation.
Addendum: Blessing for Unity provided by Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon of Alon Shvut (my translation):
He Who blessed our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He should bless and protect every single one of the nation of Israel. He should place in our hearts the capacity to look at everything with a good eye. He should place in us great love for every single person of Israel, and may we merit strong unity and complete redemption, speedily in our days and let us say Amen.
To the birth of our newest grandson, Gilad Eliya Spitz, son to Orelle and Akiva. Mazal Tov!