A Drop of Torah
This week's Torah portion, Shemot, tells the story of the Birth of Moses. It tells how Pharaoh decreed all Jewish baby boys should be killed at birth. The text says Moses' parents, Amram and Yochevet, hid him for three months to save him, but when he was too big to be hidden anymore, Yochevet put the baby in a basket and cast it adrift on the Nile. It floated on the river and was found by none other than the daughter of Pharaoh himself, who fell in love with the baby at first sight and raised him as her own son. For three months, the baby went without a name. It was Pharaoh's daughter who named him.
"וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ, מֹשֶׁה, וַתֹּאמֶר, כִּי מִן-הַמַּיִם מְשִׁיתִהוּ"
"And she called his name Moses, and said: 'Because I drew him out of the water.'"
Moses And Water
Moses is the most important prophet of the Jewish people, and he was connected to the water from Birth to Death. In the last chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, at Moses' death, we are told: "And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face" "אֲשֶׁר יְדָעוֹ יְהוָה, פָּנִים אֶל-פָּנִים." The Torah often uses human imagery when referring to "God." When we read the "Face" of "God," we generally anthropomorphize the concept, as if to say that "God" has a human face. However, we know that Moses never saw "God's" "face." The Torah states, "You cannot see my face, for no person shall see my face and live" (Ex 33:20). So in what way did Moses know "God"?
If we recall the first chapter of Genesis and the Creation Story, we remember the second verse, which says: "The Spirit of God hovers on the face of the water" וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים, מְרַחֶפֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם." The word פָּנִים is the same in both instances. The Rabbis taught that when the same word is used in different places in the Torah, there is a deeper connection in the text. So, while we all know that water doesn't have a face, we may assume the text refers to the surface of the water. But is it? Moses knew the Spirit of God face to face, the same face of the Water from Genesis, the same face of Water from which he was drawn. A face is the means by which we recognize and know another person. So figuratively, to know someone "face to face," as Moses is said to have known God, denotes awareness and a deeper knowledge of the other.
Face to Face
Anyone who has witnessed the miracle of childbirth knows the overwhelming sense of awe watching new life come into the world. Perhaps even more miraculous is the awareness that the baby which has just entered the world has lived and grown for nine months… in water. According to the Kabbalah, it is during this time that we are closest to the "Divine." While immersed in the waters of the mother's womb, the Kabbalah teaches that, on a spiritual level, the baby is given infinite knowledge of the universe, but before it enters the world, when it is removed from the water, an angel touches its upper lip… and forgets everything. Thus, everything we learn in life is simply remembering that which we already knew when we were immersed in water. Like Moses, we were all drawn from the Water. And, while in connection with Water, we have deep knowledge and are closest to the "Divine." When we recognize that the Spirit of "God" is on the face of the water, perhaps then, like Moses, we might also see the "face of God."