/BY RABBI EYTAN KENTER/ //SPECIAL FOR THE AJT // Rabbi Eytan Kenter
While a religious service attendee and regular worshiper, I can think of a couple of times in my life where I have literally called out to G-d with a particular request.
Standing in darkened silence, I cried out to G-d to please tell me what to do, “G-d, please let me know your plan for me. Guide me at this difficult time!”
Not surprisingly, I did not hear from G-d in that moment and was left standing there in silence. It seems that G-d does not work that way, regardless of how many times we ask.
In this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tissa, we encounter two separate occasions where the people desire G-d’s presence. They want to know that G-d is there and still cares for them.
The Israelites, fresh off G-d’s rev- elation from Mount Sinai, haven’t heard from G-d or from Moses for 40 days. They miss feeling G-d’s presence and knowing what G-d wants from them. In order to remediate that problem, they create the Golden Calf either to serve as a G-d that they can always see and will never leave them, or as a throne that they hope will entice G-d to come down and dwell among them.
Following the episode of the Golden Calf, Moses feels a similar distance from G-d. He asks G-d if he truly cares for him and if so, for G-d to show Moses G-d’s face.
G-d tells Moses that it is impossible for someone to see G-d’s face and live, so instead, G-d will pass by and Moses will be able to see G-d from the back. This transpires and Moses is satisfied, even if his full request was not truly fulfilled.
I find great power in this story. Beyond the fact that even Moses did not always get to see and hear G-d as he wished, Moses also learns that we can only see G-d once G-d has al- ready passed by.
While conveyed literally in our story, I’d like to propose that we view this narrative metaphorically. The story is teaching us that we could not live in a world where we saw G-d directly and always knew G-d’s plan. It would be too much for us to live with and is certainly not in our best interest.
Instead, the fortunate among us are able to see G-d once G-d has al ready passed. We are able to see G-d in those amazing moments in our lives, but all too often, only after the fact. More often than not, we are like Jacob who declared, “Behold G-d was in this place, but I did not know it.”
Just a few weeks ago, as the snow fell on Atlanta, we were faced with unprecedented challenges. Some of us drove for hours; others were left to walk the last five miles, while still others slept at friends’, family, or a Home Depot.
In those moments, we were all caught up in the challenges of the moment. But as we look back, there has rarely been an occasion where we saw so much goodness: the teachers who slept over with her students; the Home Depot employee that trudged through the snow to find the elderly woman who needed the warmth of his store; the child passing out sandwiches and waters to stranded motorists.
“Behold G-d was in this place, and only now, we know it.”
In those difficult moments and in those beautiful moments, we can get lost in ourselves, either in our sad- ness or our arrogance and declare that G-d is not there for us. Yet, for the fortunate among us, as we navigate our joy and our grief, we are able to look back and realize that G-d was indeed present inspiring us, challenging us, and holding us close.
So the next time that you call out to G-d and do not hear a response, don’t fret. G-d is there, you just may not realize it until G-d has already passed us by.
Rabbi Eytan Kenter comes to B’nai Torah as a recent honors graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary. He was born and raised in Westchester, NY where he spent his summers doing youth work at two Ramah camps and on USY on Wheels serving in capacities from counselor to group leader and from Tefillah Coordinator to Drama Head.