Rabbi Zvi Homnick, Beis Moshiach
The general rode around on his horse as the men set up for battle. In the front were the spear carriers with their large shields, followed by the swordsmen with their large swords and smaller shields, and the archers in the rear on movable raised platforms. Across the battlefield, the opposing general was doing the same.
As he inspected the lines, he spotted a huge fellow in front whom he knew to be not very bright or skilled. He called out, “Hey big guy, go to the back and grab the flag pole.” To his shock, the lumbering giant let out a war cry and with spear raised began charging across the field towards the enemy. As he approached, the opposing general rode out holding his sword, ready to easily finish him off. As he approached, the soldier stumbled to a knee and the general’s sword swung through empty air causing him to fall off his horse and onto the end of the spear.
The soldier picked up the dying general’s sword, jumped onto his horse and raced towards the enemy forces who seeing this fearless lone giant handily dispatch their vaunted general, began scattering in all directions. Slashing his way through the panicked crowd he easily captured the enemy flag, and placing his shield behind to protect his rear, rode back to his camp.
When he saw the stunned look on the face of the general, he said, “Oops, don’t tell me you meant our own flag.”
CARE TO SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
According to Kabbalah and Chassidus, the Exodus from Egypt represented going out from the “exile of speech,” whereas the Final Redemption is going out from the “exile of thought.” The First Redemption led to the revelation of, “Face to face, Hashem spoke with you” at the giving of the Torah, and in the Final Redemption it will be, “Eye to eye, they will see when Hashem returns [to] Tziyon,” with the complete revelation of the Inner Dimension of the Torah.
What is the difference between “face-to-face” communication and seeing “eye-to-eye?”
When we speak face-to-face, I know that it is you doing the talking. It doesn’t mean that I know the real you or where you’re coming from, and so I don’t know what you are really thinking from your own perspective. Seeing eye-to-eye means that I not only understand your thinking and “see” your perspective, but that I so identify with you that my thinking and my perspective align with yours to the extent that despite their differences they are two sides of the same coin.
In simple non-Kabbalistic language, the “exile of speech” is living in a world being spoken into existence every instant by G-d Himself, but all I see is a tangible physical world governed by the natural order. I don’t see the world as being spoken into existence, I don’t see the Speaker, and I certainly don’t see it as a direct communication from Hashem to me (see previous article), because the nature of speech is that it conceals so much even as it reveals.
The miracles of the Exodus broke through the concealment of the natural order, the revelation at Sinai showed the Speaker, and the Mishkan and later the Beis HaMikdash showed that physical reality is a two-way conversation between Hashem and us, with the Torah and mitzvos being the keys to keeping the channels of communication on the proper frequency. In the Beis HaMikdash, we were living in a face-to-face world with G-d, “Just as He comes to see so does He come to be seen.”
The mishna describes the celebration of the Simchas Beis HaShoeiva in the Second Beis HaMikdash: When they arrived at the gate that exits from the east, they turned their faces from east to west and said, “Our fathers who were in this place had their backs to the Heichal and their faces eastward, and they would bow eastward to the sun; and we, to G-d are our eyes.” Rabi Yehuda said, “They would repeat and say, ‘And we are to G-d and to G-d are our eyes.’”
The people then may have been “face-to-face” with Hashem, but because they did not see “eye-to-eye” there was always the option to turn one’s back and “face eastward,” bowing to the sun that represents the natural order of the world. During the Second Temple, they realized that face-to-face is not enough and what was needed was “to G-d are our eyes,” trying to see “eye-to-eye” as it were. In fact, the name of Hashem cited in the mishna is the two-letter name Yud-Hei, the divine name that represents how Hashem manifests through the intellectual faculties of Chochma and Bina. It’s not enough to know what G-d is saying, we need to know the “thinking” behind the words and that requires a commitment to get to know the Speaker as He exists beyond words. “We are to G-d and to G-d are our eyes.”
In that era, they did not have access to the same type of face-to-face relationship as before. In human relationships, to not just hear what the other is saying but to understand and “see” where he is coming from there has to be a break from direct conversation and focus on trying to process what was already said. So too, in that time there was a shift from prophecy to an explosion of development of the Oral Torah. Instead of hearing, “So said Hashem,” the focus became on discerning G-d’s intent in what was already said by understanding the Chochma (wisdom) and Bina (understanding) behind it.
Although Hashem was hiding His face, it was not a return to the “exile of speech.” Despite the revelation in the world and the Beis HaMikdash being on a lesser level, one could still come face-to-face with G-d in the Torah and/or by being connected to the Torah scholars devoted to plumbing the depths of wisdom and understanding in the Torah, “the eyes of the congregation.” Although a not as revealed spoken connection, it was a deeper thought connection through what was already spoken face-to-face.
However, there still remained the problem of the “exile of thought,” because even if I understand your thinking and even “see” your perspective, I still have my own way of thinking and my own perspective. I might “see” beyond your “face,” but we still don’t see eye-to-eye until I so relate to the “thinker” that my thought process and understanding mirror his.
As much insight as I might have as to the reasoning behind what Hashem wants as far as me picking up and waving around “four species” of plant life on a specific day or days, through study of the Oral Torah, I still don’t “see” what He “sees” in it and could easily imagine a world and a life without it. The same applies for all of Torah and mitzvos, and more so to the very existence of the world itself. So even though they proclaimed, “We are to G-d and to G-d are our eyes,” that is only seeing one-way and not yet seeing “eye-to-eye.”
An extreme manifestation of this problem is that of “baseless hatred.” I can learn all the laws and reasons for Ahavas Yisrael, but I still don’t “see” what G-d “sees” in you. I mean, really? Hashem could not “see” a world without you in it? Well, I certainly can and from my perspective it seems that the mitzva of Ahavas Yisrael never meant to include someone as eminently unlovable as you. So sorry (not), but I can’t have you around to ruin my party, even if you’re willing to pay the entire cost.
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