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Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “Direct expressions of God’s innermost will.”

In every part of existence there is a front and back.For example, when describing a knife blade, we speak of its sharp edge and blunt spine, i.e., the back of the blade.

The blade may be regarded as the “innermost” side, that is, the part that serves the intended function and purpose of the knife.

The back of the knife is merely a technical component enabling the “innermost” side to achieve the intended goal: to cut.

A more abstract example is that of a person who is giving a public address.

His words have both an internal and external aspect.

Two different people in the audience hearing the same speech will notice different things.

One may focus on the speaker’s content and intent, the “innermost” side.

The other may remember the “hind,” i.e., outer, components: his speaking style, jokes, and analogies that “clothe” and conceal his innermost content.

In the same way, all the components constituting the world, from the highest forms of life to the lowest elements, exist in a concealed state and are an expression of “concealed countenance”, which means that the innermost aspect of God’s will is concealed.

The very fact that the creation seems distinct from God conceals Him and forms the divide between God and the world.

By contrast, the mitzvot alone are direct expressions of God’s innermost will.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz