The presence of God
Moses returned to the mountain after the Golden Calf incident. As Rabbi Beth Kalisch writes in this week's Ten Minutes of Torah, he had the chutzpah
to ask God, "Oh, let me behold Your Presence!
" (Exodus 33:18).
God didn't completely grant Moses's request, telling him, "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim before you the name Adonai, and the grace that I grant and the compassion that I show. But," He said, "you cannot see My face, for man may not see Me and live." (Exodus 19:19-20)
But the encounter changed Moses - not just emotionally, as we would imagine, but physically as well. In the closing verses of this week's portion, we read, "Moses came down from Mount Sinai ... bearing the two tablets of the Pact, [but] was not aware that the skin of his face was radiant, since he had spoken with God" (Exodus 34:29)
The people are afraid to come near Moses (Exodus 34:30) leading Moses to keep his face veiled except when he spoke with God. (Exodus 34:33-35)
It's worth noting that mistranslation of a word
in Exodus 34:29 is a source for the anti-Semitic belief that Jews have horns. The Hebrew word in dispute is "keren
", part of the phrase "lo yadah kee keren od panav
" (he did not know his face was radiant
). But the word "keren" can also be translated as "horn".
Michaelangelo relied on a Latin translation of the Bible, which used the word "cornuta" (horned) for "keren", when creating his famous statue
of a "horned" Moses.