Ki Tisa: Close Encounters of the Spiritual Kind

“And Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face radiated [light], and they were afraid of approaching toward him.” (Exodus 34:30)

Our Rabbis point out that just a few months earlier, the children of Israel encountered the very glory of God Himself — “And the appearance of the glory of the Almighty was like a consuming fire at the top of the mountain, to the eyes of the children of Israel” (ibid 24:17) — yet the Torah does not indicate that the people became afraid of this appearance of God’s glory. However, at this point, from the mere glow of the face of Moshe (Moses),  but a derivative of the pure glory of God, the people are too afraid to approach. What changed?

Between looking upon the glory of God and looking upon the glow of Moshe’s face, Israel had sinned with the golden calf. This sin so diminished Israel spiritually, that where they had had the spiritual capacity to encounter the glory of God with no difficulty, they now no longer had the spiritual vitality to withstand even a fraction of that glory manifested upon a mere messenger of God.

One day we will all meet our Maker. What will this encounter feel like? If a person has achieved a healthy spirituality, like a fortified vessel, they will receive God’s glory comfortably, and bask in the ultimate pleasure of God’s infinite beneficence. However, if one returns one’s soul to one’s Maker malnourished and abused, the same encounter may so overwhelm this damaged vessel so as to shatter it violently and painfully. We determine, with our choices in this life, the nature of our experience in the afterlife. May we merit to build a powerful, loving bond with our Creator that remains strong in this world and the next!

Based on Shla”h, Parshas Ki Tisa

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