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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays The Haggadah

Seeing Hashem’s Face

Rabbi Yossef CarmelPesach 19 Nissan 5764
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Chazal instituted that we should read on Chol Hamoed Pesach from a portion of Parashat Ki Tisa, starting with the section that deals with the aftermath of the chet haegel (sin of the Golden Calf). Moshe asked that Hashem accompany Bnei Yisrael Himself and also that He reveal Himself to Moshe. Hashem agreed to accompany Bnei Yisrael, but, in regard to the second request, Hashem said that Moshe could only view "Hashem’s Back" not "His Face" (see Shemot 33:12-23). After Hashem’s placing "His Hand" over Moshe, who was in a crevice in the rocks, and teaching him the 13 Divine Attributes, Moshe again requested: "If I have found favor in Your Eyes, Hashem, let Hashem "walk" among us" (ibid. 34:9). At that point Hashem renewed his covenant with Bnei Yisrael and told them that He would give them control over the Land of the Seven Nations, which would become Eretz Yisrael. At the same time, Hashem also warned Bnei Yisrael again not to learn from the practices of those nations and to stay away from idol worship and making molten gods. They were told that the consequences would be severe if they failed to keep to their side of the agreement (ibid. 10-17).

The context of this warning is very understandable, as Bnei Yisrael had just been guilty of making a god of gold. Thus, Hashem had to reiterate and stress that the problem would arise again in full force when Bnei Yisrael would enter the Land and be exposed to the dangerous, local practices. What is more difficult to understand is the context of the immediately subsequent topic. The Torah goes into the matter of the three regalim (festivals), during which Bnei Yisrael were to go up to celebrate and serve Hashem at the religious center of the nation, the Mishkan and, later, the Beit Hamikdash (ibid. 34:18-26). What is the connection between the aftermath of the chet haegel and the regalim? And what need is there to discuss the regalim since the Torah said just about the same thing in Parashat Mishpatim?

It is possible that the key to the reference to the regalim is contained in the phrase of "lo yeira’u panay reikam" (they shall not see My Face empty-handed). What is this concept of seeing "Hashem’s Face," which is mentioned prominently in the section of the regalim more than once? The answer is that Hashem’s refusal to show His Face after the chet haegel would be relaxed, and Bnei Yisrael would be able to and be expected to go to see It in Yerushalayim during the festivals. These aliyot laregel, then, would serve as atonement for the chet haegel.

May we merit that we should soon be able to fulfill this special mitzva and have the special opportunity to encounter "Hashem’s Face" in the near future.

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