Shabbat Ki Tissah

Candles 5:10pm

Havdalah 6:09pm

Why can’t we see God?

This week we read about the Golden Calf. Moses was up the mountain communicating with God and the people down below grew restless. Although they had experienced the great miracles of the plagues and the Exodus they seemed to think that it was Moses who was responsible for everything. In vain did he protest that he was merely the tool of a greater force.

So when he disappeared for almost month the ordinary people who needed strong leadership and had relied in Moses now looked for some other symbol of leadership and that was why they urged Aaron to make a Golden Calf just like the other symbols of kingship and power that the Egyptians, the Canaanites and the Mesopotamians all had.

When Moses returned he was furious that they had so misunderstood the nature of an unseen God. That was supposed to be their great contribution to civilization, that the energy of the universe, the power of God did not need physical symbols or images for representation. The ideas should have been enough.

After he purges the ringleaders Moses tries to re-establish a relationship with God that he feels had been broken. So he asked God to “show me your glory.” In other words even Moses wanted some physical sign that God was on his side.

God replied “no human can actually see God.” But he put Moses in a cleft in the rock, in the same way that we say today “you are in between a rock and a hard place.” When we are under pressure, suffering a crisis, that’s when we want to “see God.” But all Moses got was that God passing by so to speak. He got a sort of after image. He could not claim to have seen God but to have experienced the impact of God.

And that’s true for us. We cannot see God because God is not physical and we are physical beings. We can only experience electricity if we make the transistors or the connections that convert energy into light and power. All we do experience is the impact of spirituality, goodness and morality. And that was what God wanted, not focus on what He looked like but on how we can make the world better by following His direction. God does not represent an image of what is, but rather an idea and inspiration of what might be if we try to achieve it. That is what is meant by trying to imitate God, not to imitate an object that can be seen, but to imitate goodness that can be experienced.