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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Ha'azinu

Parashat Ha'azinu

I Shall Seek Your Face, Hashem

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Some congregations have the custom not to conduct marriages between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Technical reasons, such as the inability to make sheva brachot on Yom Kippur, may be responsible for the custom, but we can find philosophical support for the custom, as well. During these days it is customary to recite Tehillim 27, "L’dovid Hashem ori v’yishi." In it, David expresses his desire to seek Hashem’s "face" and asks Hashem not to hide from him. Panim (face) is used in three different forms. Moshe invokes the same metaphor in his prayer to Hashem after the sin of the Golden Calf (cheit ha’egel) (Shemot 33:13-16), as well as the desire that he find favor in Hashem’s eyes (motze chen). The concept of being face to face with Hashem is in essence the same as finding favor in His eyes. Another parallel between these sections of Tanach, is that both Moshe and David ask Hashem to show them "His ways" (darkecha).

Moshe’s prayer after cheit ha’egel came at a time when Bnei Yisrael’s relationship to Hashem can be compared to that of a bride and groom when the groom cancels the wedding. The midrash compares the breaking of the tablets to the tearing of a marriage contract in order to protect the bride who was unfaithful from being judged as a married woman (Shmot Rabba 43). The aim of Moshe’s subsequent prayer was to try to renew the marriage between Hashem and Bnei Yisrael. On Yom Kippur, Hashem declared, "salachti" (I forgive you), signifying the return to the status of bride and groom. Both the story of Moshe and Tehillim 27 speak of being encased in sukka. In Tanach, this can refer to entering under the marriage canopy (as is implied in Yeshaya 4:5-6). Indeed, the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are sanctified as days to prepare and return to Hashem in order to renew Bnei Yisrael’s marriage to the Holy One Blessed be He.

According to this, we can understand why it could be deemed inappropriate to be busy preparing for a personal, marriage ceremony between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. This time is sanctified as a time to work on our connection with Hashem and our "communal canopy" and not a time to worry about our personal, wedding arrangements. Along these lines, we can show an added significance in reading the last perek of Hoshea on Shabbat Shuva. This perek uses terminology that is uniquely reminiscent of Shir Hashirim ("I shall be like the dew to Israel, it will blossom like a rose and strike its roots like the (forest of) Lebanon. Its tender branches will spread... Tranquil will be those who sit in its shade, they will refresh themselves like grain and blossom like the grapevine ..." (Hoshea 14:,6-8). Indeed both describe Hashem’s relationship with Bnei Yisrael as that of a young couple in love. These psukim are read on Shabbat Shuva to remind us to focus on Israel’s relationship with her Beloved.

Let us pray that during this time we too will find favor in Hashem’s eyes, and will merit returning to the status of being face to face with Hashem.

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