And He said, “You will not be able to see My face, for No Human Being shall see Me and live.”
ויאמר לא תוכל לראת את פני כי לא יראני האדם וחי
Faith is deeper than knowledge. While scientific data are absorbed only in the brain, faith permeates all parts of the human personality. Nothing is untouched, all spiritual limbs quiver, and everything is transformed. It is thus more difficult to acquire faith than knowledge, and faith has a more radical effect on the human being.
Faith is difficult, especially in times of misery. Huge effort is required to maintain it, apply it and cherish it.
“To relate your Kindness in the morning and Your faith in the nights” (1) can be understood in the following way. If one invests in one’s faith by singing God’s praises during times of prosperity and good health, then, in the loneliness of difficult and sorrowful times, one may be able to continue believing in God’s faithfulness even when there is little evidence of such Divine allegiance.
Moshe requested of God, “Please show me Your glory.” (2) He was eager to understand God’s presence, as well as His way of dealing with the world and with every human being. God responded back, “You will see My back, but My face will not be seen.” (3)
Indeed, this metaphor has great meaning. In our world everything looks topsy-turvy, confusing and contrary to what reason dictates. The world stands with its back to reason. It’s not that Moshe simply “saw” God’s back and not His front; it’s that he saw the front from the perspective of the back. It was as if he was looking at an X-ray whereby what is last is really first and what is in the front is really in the back.
Had he been able to see the front as the front and the back as the back, everything would have made sense. He would have realized that time is broken eternity, there where the real clock ticks to infinity. We are only able to see its flipside, like the letters on an ink stamp, which is a mirror image. Had Moshe indeed seen the final imprint he would have immediately departed from this world, since humans, being bound by the limitations of time, can never grasp this face-to-face encounter and survive.
Perhaps, to die is to be permitted to see the full story, in its infinity. For some, this takes a lifetime to realize; for others, it is altogether beyond their grasp. And then there are those individuals who, however young, seize it at a moment’s notice.
(1) Tehillim 92:3.
(2) Shemot 33:18.
(3) Ibid. 33:23.