Face of God

Precis: How can we see the Face of God?

 

The Bircat Cohanim [Blessing of the Priests] consists of three parts.

The second part states: May God shine his face towards you.

What does this verse mean? Is it to be understood in the metaphorical sense only? After all, we know that no man can see the face of God and live.

According to Rashi, there is a literal meaning to the verse: God will show you a joyous face, a yellow face. Meaning, that when you see the joyous and smiling face of your fellow man – you will be seeing the face of God.

But what is the Panim TseHuBot, the yellow face, immediately mentioned by Rashi as well?

In Ivrit [Hebrew, the language of the Tora] Tsahov, the word for Yellow, is closely related to Zahav, the word for Gold. In fact, they are almost the same word.

In the Talmud: Rabi Akiva gave his wife Rahel a Yerushalayim Shel Zahav [Jerusalem of Gold]. This is usually explained to mean a golden ornament, which the woman wore upon her forehead. Also in the Talmud: The wife of Raban Gamliel complained to her husband that she had not been given a Yerushalayim Shel Zahav. Raban Gamliel answered her: Have you done for me what Rahel did for Rabi Akiva?

Of course, the issue here is not petty jealousy concerning the gift of a gold ornament. The yellow gold we are discussing here is not matter, but light.

The gold here is the Panim Tsehubot, the yellow face, as promised in the Bircat Cohanim. The joyous face, taken to its next degree. The light of love mirrored back and forth between the face of husband and wife.

This is the closest we can ever get to experiencing the true Face of God.

Notes

Bircat Cohanim

Bircat Cohanim is Hebrew for Blessing of the Priests, in the Book of Bamidbar [Numbers] 6;24-26:

God will bless you and keep you.

God will shine his face towards you and be gracious to you.

God will lift his face towards you and give you peace.

Rabi Akiva and Rahel

The story of the special relationship between Rabi Akiva and his wife Rahel is in the Talmud, Nedarim 50a.

Rabi Akiva is in many ways connected to Yakov Avinu [our Father Jacob]. Their Hebrew names are very similar. And they both had a wife named Rahel, whom they loved in an unusually intense fashion.

Raban Gamliel and his wife

The exchange between Raban Gamliel and his wife is in Talmud Yerushalmi, Shabat 6;7. The term used there for the ornament is City of Gold (in some ways equivalent to Jerusalem of Gold, and in some ways, perhaps, carrying a subtly different meaning).

 

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