Vayeilech - 5779
One of my two-year old son Sasson's favorite games is "chase". It involves him running around the house in circles with Mommy in "hot pursuit" but invariably unable to quite catch him. We persist at this for some time before Sasson tires, at which point he ducks into my mother's room, lies face-down on the floor and "hides" – in full view.
Sasson’s logic is that since his face is hidden and he can't see me, then I can't see him. I oblige him and pretend to be searching furiously, reacting with surprise and delight when I finally “discover” him in his redoubt.
This week's Torah portion is vaguely reminiscent of Sasson and my game. Parashat Vayeilech speaks of a time when God will hide God’s face – disappearing, in this case, from our perspective, but not from God’s. You see the difference between hester panim (literally, God hiding the Divine countenance) and a human game of hide-and-seek is that God has nowhere to go, nor any true desire to run from us.
As Lurianic Kabbalah teaches, God has already made a decisive commitment to co-existence. During the process of creating the world God engaged in tzimtzum, contracting God’s presence into a reduced space in order to create space for us to fit within a universe that once consisted only of God.
Like my son, when God conceals God’s presence, it is because God wants to be searched out. God wants to be in relationship and hopes that our awareness of God’s absence will inspire in us a renewed zeal to seek God out.
On this Shabbat Shuvah (Shabbat of Return), in this season in which we are called with particular intensity to renew our relationship with God and with our truest selves, I wish us all a successful search!
-- Rabbi Rachel Safman