A boy came running to his father in tears. He had been playing hide-and-go-seek with his friends and the boy who had been chosen to be “it” had played a trick on him.

They had all hidden, but instead of going to find them, the one chosen to be “it” simply went home. For a while, the children hiding felt very successful. After all, they had remained in hiding a long time without being found. But afterwards, they began to feel lonely and betrayed.

As the son was talking, he saw his father — the Maggid of Mezeritch — also break out in tears.

“Why are you crying?” the child asked his father.

“Because G‑d has the same complaint that you do.”

When He hides Himself, He is waiting for us to search for Him.

Parshas Vaeira

If you were G‑d and you wanted people to be conscious of Your existence, what would You do?

Most of us would answer: Just say “Hello.” After all, we like things to be straightforward. We are not interested in games. If we want something, we go for it.

Why doesn’t G‑d do that? One of the reasons is that if He were to reveal Himself as He is, nothing else could exist. It would be like looking directly at the sun; the light would be too powerful. Were He not to withdraw and conceal Himself, we could not exist. To introduce a mystic term, this is the concept of tzimtzum.

But if concealment is necessary to maintain our existence, how can He make Himself known? If it is necessary for Him to withdraw to create the world, how can He enter it again?

These questions lie at the core of the spiritual history of the world. The concealment of G‑dliness creates the framework of our existence. On the other hand, the progress of civilization is directed towards one goal: that He make Himself known.

One of the tools that He uses to make Himself known is nature itself. The natural makeup of the world conceals G‑dliness, creating the impression that the world exists independently with its own rules and on its own power. On the other hand, when a person probes more deeply, he or she comes to the awareness that nature cannot exist on its own. The inner harmony that pervades the world is too deep and encompassing to ignore. This is one way that man comes to appreciate G‑d.

This way is, however, problematic. First of all, it requires contemplation and deeper thought. As such, not everyone will come to that awareness. Secondly, even when a person is capable of reaching such an understanding, it will not be his inherent reaction. Ingrained in his nature is the idea that the world exists for itself. The awareness of G‑d always comes second, as a learned — and therefore a weaker — conception.

For this reason, from time to time, G‑d performs revealed miracles, for example, the Ten Plagues visited upon the Egyptians, seven of which are described in this week’s Torah reading.

Why did G‑d bring the plagues? His purpose was not only to motivate Pharaoh to release the Jews, for after the fifth plague, Pharaoh was prepared to do so. It was only because G‑d “hardened his heart” that he persevered in his stubborn refusal.

The intent of the plagues is clearly stated in the Torah: “So that you tell... your son and your grandson that I made sport of Egypt... so that you may know that I am G‑d.”

The miracles of the Exodus made it plainly obvious that G‑d exists. After all, water does not ordinarily turn to blood, frogs do not swarm over the land, nor does fiery hail descend. Seeing these miracles, one after the other, made everyone — the Egyptians and the Jews — conscious of G‑d.

On the other hand, miracles are not ordinary. First of all, were that to be the case, the motif of concealment mentioned above would be broken. There would be too much revelation for this world. Also, there would be little point in man’s service. After all, when G‑dliness is obvious, is it a challenge to serve Him?

Therefore, our lives contain a fusion of the two. The prevailing paradigm is that of the natural order. Nevertheless, from time to time, we are granted an appreciation of G‑dliness that transcends nature to inspire us to deeper and more committed service.

Looking to the Horizon

But G‑dliness is not only about concealment. Just as He has the potential to remain hidden, He also has the potential to reveal Himself. That is the essence of the message of the era of the Redemption — that “the world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the ocean bed.”

But how is it possible for Him to be revealed in a world of limitation? As mentioned above, revealing Himself would eradicate the prevailing framework of our existence. This revelation is dependent on the Divine service of Jewish people. Through our efforts to refine the G‑dly sparks that permeate every element of existence, we make the world fit for Him to be revealed. For thousands of years, we have been creating the setting, painstakingly showing how every element of existence can serve as a medium for the revelation of G‑dliness. Very soon, with the coming of Mashiach, we will see the fruits of our efforts, when “the glory of G‑d will be revealed and all flesh will see.”