First Blast: Text
אַל-תַּסְתֵּר פָּנֶיךָ מִמֶּנִּי
Do not conceal Your presence from me
Second Blast: Commentary
Just before Moses’ death, God tells him that the people will abandon the covenant and therefore “I will hide My face on that day, because of all the evil they have committed, when they turned to other deities” (Deuteronomy 31:18). This verse gave rise to the idea of hester panim (concealment of the face), that God works “behind the scenes” to accomplish God’s ends, even when God seems totally absent. The story of Esther serves as the classic example: the story does not mention God once, but Jewish tradition understands God as standing behind the fortune “coincidences” that enable the happy ending.
Third Blast: Practice
The verse from Deuteronomy above uses a double verb form—haster astir—to describe God’s hiding. Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav, a 19th century Hasidic spiritual teacher, explains that the double verb refers to “concealment within concealment”—when God’s presence is concealed, and the fact of the concealment is itself concealed.
This teaching was set to music in Israel in the past year and crossed over from the fervently Orthodox community in which it began into the Israeli mainstream, with dozens of covers posted to YouTube.
The words are:
אבא שבשמים אומר לנו אנוכי אסתיר פני ביום ההוא...אבל רבי נחמן אומר: ואפילו בהסתרה שבתוך ההסתרה בוודאי גם שם נמצא השם יתברך. גם מאחורי הדברים הקשים העוברים עליך אני עומד
Our Father in heaven says to us “I will surely hide my face on that day…”
But Rabbi Nachman says, “Even in the concealment within concealment, surely even there the Blessed God is found. Even behind the difficult things that pass over you, I stand.”
Listen to one version here. As you listen, consider the concealed things around you that might escape your notice.