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Elul 17: Face

by Hillel News |Sep 01, 2015|Comments

First Blast: Text

לְךָ אָמַר לִבִּי בַּקְּשׁוּ פָנָי אֶת-פָּנֶיךָ ה' אֲבַקֵּשׁ

On Your behalf, my heart says, "Seek My presence (lit. face); Your presence (lit. face), O Lord, I will seek."


Second Blast: Commentary

In a cryptic passage in the Torah, Moses requests an intimate encounter with God. God replies, "I will let all My goodness pass before you; I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you… You will not be able to see My face, for man shall not see Me and live” (Exodus 33:19-20). Seeing God’s face (the Biblical idiom for presence) seems impossible, yet precisely what the speaker in our Psalm seeks. Indeed, seeking the unobtainable might be a good description of a true spiritual search.


Third Blast: Practice

The 20th century Jewish philosopher Emanuel Levinas developed his thought around encountering the face of another. He said, “The approach to the face is the most basic mode of responsibility … the face is the other who asks me not to let him die alone, as if to do so were to become an accomplice in his death. Thus the face says to me: you shall not kill.”


Spend a moment today lingering on the face of another, whether a stranger of a person you know well. What do you see in the face of another? To what does that person’s face call you? How does truly seeing the face of another help in your process of teshuva?


Check out the Israeli singer Yontan Razel’s version of our verse


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  • Elul
  • Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Experience
  • 2015

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