G-d’s Face

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Dear Rabbi Simon

In Exodus 33:20 God Tells Moshe “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” but in Psalm 104:29, it says “When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.” also Psalm 30 says “LORD, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.” How would you reconcile these apparently contradicting verses?

Thanks, Eli

Dear Eli

TY for your Q.

The vv. you cite from Psalms are in the spirit of Dt. 31:17-18: “I will surely hide My face on that day” (when misfortune overtakes the Jewish People). Ex. 33:20 is in response to Moshe’s request in v. 19 “Show me your glory”. In v. 23 Hashem tells Moshe that he will be able to see “My back, but My face cannot be seen.”

I would suggest that the meaning of this enigmatic anthropomorphism is that man cannot perceive, ie understand G-d’s ways in prospect, ie “My face” but sometimes in retrospect “you will see My back”, ie in looking back at events of my life or even history itself, G-d’s purpose may become apparent.

This important and complex philosophical matter warrants further elaboration, but the lines above will have to suffice for now.

Best wishes

rabbi rashi simon


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Ask the Rabbi: Quinoa on Pesach
Dear Rabbi Simon,
Where do you stand on quinoa (and the kitniyot ban) for Pesach?
Many thanks,
Dear Tzippy,
In line with other American authorities, I am in favour of quinoa. Although I reject completely the voices (mostly from Israel) seeking to abolish the ban on kitniyot entirely, IMO we do not need to include in the prohibition pseudo-grains that were unknown in the Old World until modern times. Best to buy with a Pesach hechsher though, to be free of any possible wheat contamination.
Rabbi Rashi Simon
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