Parashat Mishpatim

Under God's Feet

How do we reconcile our desire to see God with God's statement that no one can see God and live?

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If God is not corporeal or contained in a single being, how is seeing the manifestation of God's work distinct from actually seeing God? Do you agree that human beings "may not see [God] and live"? What aspects of your own life do you think about in connection with this warning?

The poem by Rumi suggests that we can only find that which is already a part of us. Can one who professes to be an agnostic witness the God of Judaism? Must one already believe in God in order to see the Divine?

How can recognizing each manifestation of God in the world change a person's life?

D'var Torah

There is an inconsistency in our texts and in our general understanding of what it means to see God. On the one hand, we cannot see God and live. On the other hand, we live to see God and recognize the Divine in our loved ones, in strangers, and in the world. How can we reconcile this juxtaposition of contrary ideas?

We must make a distinction between seeing the Divine beauty of the world, a symbol of God's glory, and the possibility of being stricken down by our audacity to look God in the face as equals.

Seeing God, looking into the eyes and soul of the Creator, understanding and knowing God as we want to know another and be known--these are not possible with God, to whom we are not equal. The seventy-four do not look directly at God but see God from below; they look up at God. The focus of their gaze is on the pavement under God's throne. They are aware of seeing God, but the center of their attention is on the path that leads to the Eternal. By following that path, we, too, can catch a glimpse of the Eternal God.

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Rabbi Vered L Harris

Rabbi Vered L. Harris is the educator at Congregation Beth Torah, Overland Park, KS.