Rabbi Yonah Burr
Shemos: Not Black and White
ויסתר משה פניו כי ירא מהביט אל האלקים
Moshe hid his face, because he was afraid to gaze at the Divine Presence
Moshe Rabbeinu’s first introduction to prophecy was the vision of the ‘burning bush’. Noticing that the bush was burning but was not being consumed, Moshe approached to investigate the matter. After realizing that this was a prophecy, an Image of the Shechina, he hid his face in fear.
Our Sages have very different perspectives regarding Moshe’s behavior; some view it favorably- ‘because Moshe hid his face out of respect for the Shechina, Moshe merited that his face would shine with a spiritual glow, and he would need to cover his face as to not frighten the Jewish people’. Because Moshe was ‘afraid’ he merited that the Jewish People would be ‘afraid’ to approach him out of reverence and respect.’
On the other hand, some say ‘because Moshe hid his face at the bush, he did not merit to see Hashem’s ‘face’ at Har Sinai, only his ‘back’. “When I wanted to show you, you did not want to see, now that you want to see, I wish not to show”.
How are we to understand these diametrically opposed views?
The Meforshim say that the two opinions are not mutually exclusive at all, but merely reflect two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, Moshe, out of his humility, did not think he deserved to view the Shechina; so out of great respect, he covered his face. On the other hand, Hashem expected Moshe to overcome his feelings of humility to strive for even greater heights and make himself worthy!
He deserved a reward for the respect he showed, but at the same time was criticized for not reaching for higher.
Hashem analyzes our every action, and recognizes our good intentions and yearnings even amongst our shortcomings; Hashem takes note of our good qualities even when things could have been done better.
We are encouraged to follow in the ways of Hashem and treat others the way we would want Hashem to treat us-let us strive to see the good in others, their intentions, and their qualities, even if we feel they didn’t act perfectly.
May we merit that Hashem should judge us favorably, and merit the true redemption speedily in our days!
Have a wonderful Shabbos!