Shabbat shalom! In this week's double Torah portion is Parashat Nitzavim-Vayeilech, Moses starts to wrap up his Deuteronomy-long speech to the Israelites, recapping the events of the Exodus and reminding the people of the 613 commandments they must promise to fulfill after entering the Promised Land. Along with the reminders of what they must do come the warnings of what will happen if they don't. Among these warnings is God's ominous promise, "And I will surely hide my face that day" (Deuteronomy 31:18).
I don't believe that God really interferes in our lives as directly or tangibly as is depicted in the Torah, so for us, when God hides God's face it's not necessarily a direct punishment the way this line is intended to communicate. But I do believe there are times we can feel God's presence more fully, and times when we don't. For me, the question isn't so much why has God's face become obscured to us, but rather, what will we do in each situation?
The Chasidic Masters of 18th/19th century Eastern Europe say that "there are times when God hides God's face. But then there are times when God hides God's face and we don’t even realize that The face is hidden; we dwell in darkness, and think it is light." I think there are also times when we feel that God's face is hidden but we're just missing the signals.
In times of crisis, we might ask ourselves, what were the clues we missed, the darkness we ignored, before we reached this zenith. But rather, let us ask ourselves, where is the light we are missing in this dark time? Where are the glimmers of God's face, the Divine Spark in the people that carry us forward out of crisis? How can we help to spread that spark further?
On this Patriot's Shabbat, we honor all first responders and leaders in our community who have helped others in times of crisis, who are ready to continue shining light in darkness in the future, and we remember those who have lost their lives as well in their attempts. May we all find the faith to keep looking for God's face even when it is hidden, and yet the courage to face the darkness when it falls. May we all know how to recognize when God's face is truly hidden from us, and be the lights of peace that rekindle the Divine Sparks in those around us. Amen, Shabbat Shalom, and thank you again for joining us this Patriot's Shabbat.