Monday, April 16, 2012

How many different faces does G-d have?

How many different faces does G-d have?

As we enter the period of Sefirat HaOmer, the counting of the Omer, we are even more mindful of time and its passage. We are coming out of the zone of Z’man Heiruteinu, the time of our freedom with the leaving of Egypt and the life of slavery it held for us as celebrated and observed during Pesah and now beginning to think about the waiting period for our celebration of Z’man Matan Torateinu, the giving of our precious Torah as celebrated and observed during Shavuot seven weeks later. During this time, one of the “new takes” I have decided to intentionally observe this year in my learning, teaching, prayers, etc. is the many different ways that we interact with G-d and vice versa. During the singing of Dayenu at our Seder table, I was thinking of the different tasks and actions that G-d brings into G-d’s relationship with us. Some are reflective of G-d’s caretaking and gentle manner with us as Rachmana, Av HaRachamim and as Adoshem among other names; other actions represent G-d’s need to keep us on course and be our judge and disciplinarian as G-d does as Elokeinu and Elokei Avoteinu; there are actions in which we are to model and parallel what G-d does on high (El Elyon) in our own world; and so on.

I always loved the notion that the Hebrew word for face is Panim, a plural form, because actually we all have so many different faces. We have a happy face, a sad expression, a frustrated look, and joyful countenance and so forth. We should remember that we were made in the image of ELOKEINU (as in BeTzelem Elokim, in the image of G-d we were made). Of course, the very word, ELOKIM is also in the plural, for much of the same reason. We may not always like the face we have on and we may not always feel so pleased with the aspect that G-d shows us at various intervals, but just as our ONE FACE has the capacity to show so many different emotions and feelings, our ONE AND ONLY ONE G-D shows us many different aspects and elements of our lives and G-d’s impact in our lives. We should remember that all of these different aspects and elements of G-d’s place in our lives parallels the many different expressions and faces we all have with our singular composition we name “face.” If we think of G-d in this way, then the notion that G-d is so many different manifestations to so many different people can help us in relating to G-d in our own lives and to respect that other people with their own personalities and needs are doing the same. G-d is not one static constant in this thinking but rather a multi-faceted and ever moving being, as we, the creations of G-d, are.

We are taught by Chazal (our revered Rabbis) that the miracle of Z’man Matan Torateinu (the time of the receiving of the Torah) was that with all of our various perspectives and approaches and voices, for that moment in time we were of “one voice and one heart” and that the unity of purpose at this amazing moment was truly unfathomable. May we always preserve and value our differences and the many ways in which we relate to and consider G-d while observing the vision of Zechariah, the prophet who gives us the verse we all say daily in the Aleinu, “On that day, may G-d be One and G-d’s Name be One.” One, that is, with G-d’s many different faces and manifestations; and One in our minds, as varied and differentiated as we are as well!

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