In the Torah reading for Shabbat Chol Hamoed, Moshe makes an interesting request. He asks God: “Hareini na et kivodecha” (Exodus 33:18), which literally translates as “Show me your honor.”
Moshe knew God better than anyone. He spoke to God directly. It was through Moshe that God performed many miracles. So what did he mean by this request?
Ramban explains that Moshe’s request is to see God’s goodness, compassion. Moshe is saying: God, I know you’re good and compassionate, but I don’t see those attributes in your actions. Show me.
Ramban’s understanding makes it relevant to us. At times, we all wonder why God allows bad things to happen. Well, we’re in good company. Even Moshe asked this question, and he never lacked faith in God.
Ramban explains that God’s answer to Moshe is: “I, God, am good and compassionate, but you, Moshe, as a human, can’t always understand my goodness.”
While it may not be fully satisfying, this answer is for us, too.
Sometimes hindsight allows us to see the good that we previously couldn’t see in a situation. For example, a man is upset when he doesn’t get the job he wants, but two months later he lands a better job. Looking back, the man realizes that not getting the first job was for the best. When a loved one tragically passes away, we may never be able to see God’s compassion. But hopefully, we can find comfort in the Torah’s teaching that God is good, even when we can’t see it.
Numerous places in Psalms and throughout our liturgy, we recite the verse, “Give thanks to God for He is good, His kindness endures forever.” We recognize that God’s goodness is there at times that we don’t see it.
This is also a theme of Passover. During Passover, we thank God for taking us out of Egypt, and we celebrate our freedom. We do this despite not being able to fully understand why God allowed Egypt to enslave our ancestors in the first place and not always feeling that God saves us from our troubles today. We focus on the numerous things God did for us that we do see as good, and give thanks. He performed the plagues, He split the sea, and He did numerous other things mentioned in the haggadah. Passover focuses us on God’s goodness, even though at times we don’t see it.
Hopefully, with this focus, we will be happier people who have a stronger relationship with God, both during Passover and throughout the year.
I invite you to continue our Jewish learning together at Limmud Baltimore with many sessions focused on finding deeper meaning in the Torah and relating it to our lives.
Shabbat shalom and Chag sameach!
Noah Aronin lives in Baltimore with his wife, Tovah, and his son, Yaakov. He has a Master of Arts degree in Jewish education and is preparing to begin Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School in the fall. Aronin will be teaching — and learning — at Limmud Baltimore on April 21 at Johns Hopkins University. For more, visit limmudbaltimore.org.