God Lifts Up His Face
Yael Eckstein | June 9, 2022
The LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace. — Numbers 6:26
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Naso, which means “count,” from Numbers 4:21–7:89.
Three times a day — every morning, afternoon, and evening — Jews end our worship with a fervent prayer “to repair the world for the Kingdom of Heaven,” ushering in a time when all peoples of the earth will come to know the one true God, the God of Israel and the Bible. “Repairing the world” in Hebrew is Tikkun Olam.
For Jews, the value of Tikkun Olam means building God’s kingdom. We do this by spreading truth and kindness. We “repair the world” by fighting injustice, poverty, and suffering wherever we can. The truth is that Tikkun Olam is really the common theme behind everything that we do at The Fellowship.
With all the overwhelming needs out there, I sometimes wonder to myself, since God is all-powerful, why doesn’t He simply come down and fix all the problems Himself? Why does God allow suffering to persist in the world?
God Lifts Up His Face
I believe that we can find the answer in this week’s Torah portion, in the priestly blessing that is spoken over Israel by Aaron and his descendants to this very day. The words are probably familiar to you as well, “The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
The Hebrew for “turn his face” is yisa panav. Panav means “his face,” yisa literally means “will lift up.” The literal translation of the verse is, “The Lord will lift up his face toward you and give you peace.”
In the Bible, whenever someone lifts up their face to someone else, it describes a subordinate looking expectantly or prayerfully to a superior. For example, in Job 22:26-27 we read, “Surely then you will find delight in the Almighty and will lift up your face to God. You will pray to him, and he will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows.”
It makes sense that in subordination to God, we would lift up our faces to Him. But what does the priestly blessing mean by saying that God will “lift up His face” to us? Obviously, God is not our subordinate, but the message is powerful. God is waiting for us. God is looking expectantly to us, depending on us, and waiting for us to take action.
We asked why God doesn’t solve all the world’s problems Himself. The answer is simple. God lifts up His face to us and wants us to be His partners in repairing His world.