"I will hide My face from them, I will see how they fare at their end" Deuteronomy 32:20


These two phrases sum up what is so unique and so troubling about our relationship with God. In this epic poem, the ultimate song of Moses's life, God is a father, who feeds and nurtures His beloved people, an eagle carrying its young, a Rock, as well as a voice of rage, pain and even vengeance.

At this very point in the song, seeing the people turn to paganism and idolatry, God says: "I will hide My face, I will see how they fare at their end." Why would God hide from us? What might this say about an enduring and ongoing sense of connection? Rabbi Ibn Ezra, who lived in medieval Spain in the 12th century, says that although God already knows our ends, God cannot know how we, each individual human being, will react to what we face. In other words, God will discover the result of our human freedom.

Nachmanides, or Ramban, who lived about a hundred years later, describes how God must discover our actions and react to them, by moving between God's own potential, the driving qualities of compassion and of strict justice. This balance of our freedom and our ongoing relationship with the Creator means that there is an almost necessary sense of absence, a hidden face. The Torah helps us to live with this reality.

Sometimes we know there is a hidden face, but sometimes it speaks to us of some One close: an eagle, a Rock, a loving parent.

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