A week ago we loaded up the van with a whole bunch of stuff, a whole bunch of kids, and we embarked on a ten hour journey in the car to lovely, beautiful, Southern New Mexico. As we approached Colorado Springs, which boasts phenomenal views of the Rocky Mountains, my brilliant and insightful wife noticed that in fact, we could not see the beautiful mountains. The last few days Colorado had been plagued with wild fires, and the smoke obscured the mountain view. In fact, noted my Better Half, if we wouldn’t have known any better, we might have even thought that the mountains were not there.
This blew my mind– because we know, as a matter of fact, that the mountains are there. It’s just, right now, we couldn’t see the mountains– they appeared as if they were not actually there. Interestingly, this is a concept that we read about in the Torah portion in a few weeks. The concept is called Hester Panim which means “the concealment of the face.” Sometimes, when we go through painful and scary things in life–as individuals, communities, or even as nations– we can come up with absolutely no rational explanation for what is happening. It doesn’t make sense when people suffer. It doesn’t make sense when innocent civilians cling to a moving aircraft for dear life, after the collapse of their governments, and the abandonment of the American government and army. We cannot come up with rational explanations for this. It appears as if G-d has vanished.
But we must remember that like the sturdy, reliable mountains, which are unmoving, and certainly not going anywhere–despite the smoke obscuring our view– G-d as well is still very much in the picture, completely running the show. True– we have no ability to fathom His ways– and we cannot make sense of Him, and how He operates the universe. Sometimes He might be harder to perceive than other times. But that does not mean that he is absent. He is still there– waiting for us to seek Him out-and to connect to Him.
Now, in the month of Elul, three weeks before Rosh Hashana, is precisely the time to do just that.