Yoni Mozeson
FInding God's hiding places

When we perceive God as the enemy.

Our Parsha contains one of the two instances of ‘rebuke’ (תוכחה) that are found in the Torah.  It echoes some of the darkest chapters in Jewish history. The Midrash shares a unique perspective whereby God is – so to speak – soul searching and distressed. God is grieving one of the most terrible outgrowths of the Jewish People’s misdeeds. Call them punishments, course corrections, or opportunities for growth. In either case, the blame somehow shifts from the misdeeds of the Jewish People to harsh responses of God. As a result, the very notion of God as merciful and gracious has been subverted into God as – God forbid – our enemy:

אֲנִי נִקְרֵאתִי, .. אֵל רַחוּם וְחָנוּן (שמות לד, ו). וּמִפְּנֵי עֲוֹנוֹתֵיכֶם, עֲשִׂיתֶם אוֹתִי לָאַכְזָרִי, וַהֲפַכְתֶּם מִדַּת רַחְמָנוּתִי לְאַכְזְרִיּוּת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: הָיָה הכְּאוֹיֵב

“I was called ‘.. a merciful and gracious God.’ (Shemot, 34:6)” But because of your sins, you have characterized Me as cruel and changed {the perception of} My traits from that of mercy to cruelty, as stated ‘The Lord has become like an enemy’ (Eicha, 2:5 –  Midrash Tanchuma Bechukosei, 2:1).

Bringing this idea down to the earthly realm (להבדיל בין קודש לחול), it is somewhat reminiscent of a quote by former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir: “When peace comes we will, perhaps, in time, be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons.”

God changes from prosecutor to defender

As much as God despises what we have – so to speak – turned Him into, God prefers this over the alternative – creations who never sin because they have no free will. The Midrash brings a delightful conversation between the angels and God that took place before Adam is created. The angels appealed to God to reconsider creating mankind because mankind will surely break the laws of the Torah. God asked the angels who then will keep the laws. The angels  gleefully 

answered אָנוּ מְקַיְּמִין תּוֹרָתֶךָwe will fulfill your Torah.” God challenged them by citing laws of the Torah they can’t possibly fulfill because they can’t experience death, birth or hunger:

אָמַר לָהֶם: כְּתִיב בָּהּ, זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה אָדָם כִּי יָמוּת בְּאֹהֶל (במדבר יט, יד), וְאַתֶּם אֵין בֵּינֵיכֶם מֵתִים. כְּתִיב בָּהּ, אִשָּׁה כִּי תַּזְרִיעַ וְיָלְדָה זָכָר (ויקרא יב, ב), וְאַתֶּם אֵין בָּכֶם יוֹלֶדֶת. כְּתִיב בָּהּ, אֶת זֶה תֹּאכְלוּ (שם יא, כא), אֶת זֶה לֹא תֹּאכְלוּ (שם פסוק ד), וְאַתֶּם אֵין בֵּינֵיכֶם אֲכִילָה

“It is written in [the Torah], ‘When a person dies in a tent, (Bamidbar, 19:14)’ but there are none among you who die. It is written in [the Torah], ‘When a woman becomes pregnant and gives birth to a male child (Vayikra, 12:2) ,’ but there are none among you who bear [children]. It is 

written in [the Torah], ‘these you may eat,(Vayikra, 11:21)’ ‘these you may not eat, (Ibid, 11:4)’ but in your case there is no eating among you.”’

No sin, no consequences, no growth

Angels don’t seem to comprehend the complex, ennobling interplay between Man and God.
Oftentimes we have to fall in order to grow. This, in turn, has the potential to bring us closer to God. An angel’s diminished ability to sin is a dramatic limitation which inhibits their potential for spiritual growth. Although God is ‘saddened’ by the fact that He is misconstrued as the ‘enemy,’ allowing there to be no consequences for our actions, is not an option.

About the Author
(Almost 100 Midrash Video summaries can be found on my youtube playlist: After college and Semicha at Yeshiva University my first pulpit was Ogilvy where I wrote TV commercials for brands like American Express, Huggies and Duracell. My passion is Midrash Tanchuma. I am an Architect of Elegant Marketing Solutions at We are living in (where else) the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem.
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