This past Shabbat morning the rabbi spoke about Parashat Beshallah and the Israelites' desire to meet God panim el panim, face to face. To reach for this kind of holiness is a worthy goal, he observed, but impossible: God, by definition, cannot be seen or understood. To say otherwise is to admit to idol worship.
I think I missed the point of this d’var Torah. I agree that anyone who swears to have discovered absolute truth is lying. But I don't believe we can pursue our dreams while imagining God as elusive or unknowable--even if, deep down, we believe this is the case. I prefer to tell myself a white lie and think of the God Who surrounds me, who accompanies all life at all times, as the one and only layer of bureaucracy. I want to believe in a direct line to that kind of strength. Whenever I need to anthropomorphize, I imagine a really, really important God in a big office at the end of a long corridor Who, despite a packed calendar, will nonetheless find an opening in the agenda for a meeting with me, mere human.
Once upon a time, the only way to know another deeply and honestly was in person. But now we have access other avenues of communication that let us meet over space and time, through words perhaps more carefully chosen than a face to face conversation will allow. I may never encounter God panim el panim, but my prayer is kind of like Skype or iSight--the comforting illusion of seeing God whenever I can provide the connection.
A few years ago, when I spent my first Yom Kippur at Elat Chayyim, I commented that while God might feel distant to me in other places/spaces in my life, talking to God from E"C was clearly a local call.
Of course, the challenge becomes one of bringing that feeling with me away from the retreat center, so that I can be aware at all times of God's nearness. This post makes me smile.
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