This week’s Torah reading, one that’s special for the days of Passover, includes a little narrative that is so touching. Exodus 33:18-24 begins with Moses pleading with God, asking to know who God is, and to see God’s face. He expresses human frustration at not being able to know his Creator by face. But God does not let him see Godself. Instead, God offers that Moses hide face first in a cleft of a rock and after God has passed, Moses can turn and see God’s back. However, the word “back” is translated from the Hebrew word “achorai”— the word “achar” means afterwards, so “achorai” means something less like “back” and more like “afterwards.” What does it mean to see God’s “afterwards”?
I think of it like the movie Godzilla where the camera pans across the skyline of Tokyo. First, as it pans right, we see whole buildings, and then demolished buildings and then eventually a tail and finally the whole body of Godzilla destroying building! It is one thing to see Godzilla, and another thing to see the achorai of Godzilla— that is the “afterwards” of Godzilla; the evidence that he was there. That evidence is the destroyed buildings. We know Godzilla was there without ever seeing him because we see the destruction left in his wake.
So when we look for evidence that God has been somewhere, we can adjust our focus and look for God’s achorai. If evidence that Godzilla was someplace is destroyed buildings, what could evidence of God’s past presence be? Probably more like blessings in the world. And, so, to find the presence of God, we need to adjust our vision to look not for God, but for God’s achorai/God’s afterwards.
I look for God’s presence in nature (and find it there easily) especially in a sunset over the ocean, a breathtaking Mountain View, or a stunning towering tree. I find God in the feeling of reconnecting with old friends, and hearing the perfect song for the perfect moment come on the radio. I find God in an illuminating text and in the delicious taste of foods. It can be difficult to tune in, but can you see the evidence of God’s presence in the universe by looking for God’s achorai/God’s afterwards? How?
The rabbis saw God’s presence in the world and wrote blessings thanking God for those moments. They had blessings for foods, thunder and lightening, upon seeing a king, or rainbows. Blessings for all kinds of things. Check some of the out HERE
The above is a reflection by Rabbi Heather Miller on this week's Torah reading, Exodus 33:12-34:26, Numbers 28:19-25. Please visit rabbiheathermiller.com to subscribe and follow on social media.