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    Face to face – Chukkat

    In English we often use the phrase, “face to face”.

    The words originate in the Bible, in D’varim chapter 34, describing God’s relationship with Moses: “There has not arisen thereafter in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew panim el panim – face to face” (Deut. 34:10).

    Rashi tells us that this means that Moses had access to God whenever he desired, i.e. “presence to presence”.

    A different phrase is found in this week’s portion, where God says of Moses, “With him I speak peh el peh – mouth to mouth” (Num. 12:8).

    From Rashi we derive the idea that God’s communication with Moses was direct and unclouded, a concept developed in detail when the sages and then Maimonides explain the differences between Moses and other prophets.

    Other prophets received messages from God more sporadically and through a veil, whilst Moses was in communication with the Almighty constantly and without anything supervening.

    Though we in later generations are neither Moses nor prophets, we can learn from these discussions that the believer, whoever he or she may be, can always find the Divine Presence bursting into their life, and must always be ready to respond to God and His message.

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