After the sin of the golden calf, one of the lowest points in Jewish history, Moses pleaded to G-d for forgiveness. When G-d acceded to his request, Moses, feeling the auspiciousness of the moment further requests of G-d to show him His glory. G-d acquiesced to this appeal as well, but informs him: “You will not be able to see My face, for no human can see My face and live. G-d said: Behold, there is a place with Me; you may stand on the rock; I will shield you with My hand until I have passed. Then I will remove My hand and you will see my back, but My face may not be seen.”
Though Moses longed to see G-d and know His ways directly he was told that he would only be able to see His “back.” This sense of indirect sight is represented by “vision.” In Aramaic, a language considered the reverse side of Hebrew, the word for “sight” (ra’oh) is translated as “vision” (chazah). Until we actually experience the redemption we can only “see” it indirectly in our deeply hidden consciousness of heart and soul.
To see G-d through “my own flesh” is to see, as it were, the “reverse side,” or impression of G-d. Being created “in the image of G-d” is analogous to man being the “mirror image” of Divinity. This idea extends to all of Creation as well. The first of the Hebrew letters, the alef, is symmetrically constructed from a yod above and a yod below, with the letter vav, simultaneously uniting yet separating the two yods. The dual function of the vav signifies both the relationship of unity–“face to face,” and separateness–“face to back.”
The figurative images of “face” and “back” relate to the visionary ability to see the future. Seeing the “face” implies a clear apprehension of the future, while seeing the “back” intimates a vision of the future that is perceived in general terms, but its exact form and details remain unclear and indistinct. Isaiah, referring to the precise description of the anticipated future redemption states: “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither has the eye seen, that a G-d besides You should do such a thing for him that waits for Him.” Though the prophet does transmit to the people the word of G-d, it is in a general allegorical form. Even the prophet who is granted a true “backside” vision of the future can not clearly see it in all its exact details until it actually happens.
The “backside” or impression of G-d in philosophic and Kabbalistic terms implies the possibility of evil, a necessary component in G-d’s plan for the world, as only this ensures the possibility of free choice through which man strives to reach his potential as a being created in the image of G-d. According to Kabbalah all forms of evil and destruction “suck” their life force from the sefirah of hod, as alluded to in the verse: “And I Daniel alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. I was left alone and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me, for my comely appearance (v’hodi) was horribly changed and I retained no strength.” Daniel’s change of appearance (from the root hod) and lack of strength alludes to the forces of evil sucking from the sefirah of hod.
A further allusion to the correlation of destruction to hod is found in the incident of the golden calf. Aaron, the High priest, who is always associated with the sefirah of hod, when trying to delay and divert the people from their destructive idea, became an unwitting participant in the actual making and subsequent worship of the golden calf. In contrast, the Temple, the spiritual domain of Aaron, represents the cardinal attributes and meaning of hod–the power of atonement, acknowledgment and praise–counteracting the destructive forces of the world.
We can infer from this that a Jewish vision of redemption ultimately emanates from the very source from which destruction receives its energy.Shabbat Chazon precedes Tisha B’Av in order that the vision of a glorious (hod) future can combat and neutralize the destructive forces concentrated on this fateful day. A true visionary has the ability to see a good future through even a troubled present.
This idea is embodied in the statement of the sages that the Mashiach is born on Tisha B’Av. He is conceived in the collective super-consciousness of the Jewish People and his birth is the manifestation of the deep belief in the ultimate redemption of the world. This universal vision, imprinted within the very day of destruction, forms the essential core of the soul of Mashiach.
To see the future “face to face” is to experience it as super-temporal, out of the context of time. To see from the “backside” is to experience vision as an organic process of growth, evolving from the present into the future. The Talmudic statement: “Who is wise–he who sees the ‘birth'” is taken to mean: “he who sees all the potential in the present moment and how it will actualize in the future.” Many of the sages would be able to look at very young boys and proclaim: “From a little sprout, I can tell what he will turn into.”
Although prophesy no longer fully manifests itself as an institution among the Jewish People, each person retains the potential glimmer of prophesy deep within. Achieving a vision of a rectified future can only be grasped through our present reality. The dynamics of leadership are potent tools for contacting deeply dormant powers of the soul, enabling us to manifest the redemptive process as an essential part of our lives, and in so doing bring the future into the present.