Parshat Yitro: Closer Than We Think
וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהֹוָ֜ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֗ה הִנֵּ֨ה אָנֹכִ֜י בָּ֣א אֵלֶ֘יךָ֮ בְּעַ֣ב הֶֽעָנָן֒ בַּעֲב֞וּר יִשְׁמַ֤ע הָעָם֙ בְּדַבְּרִ֣י עִמָּ֔ךְ וְגַם־בְּךָ֖ יַאֲמִ֣ינוּ לְעוֹלָ֑ם וַיַּגֵּ֥ד מֹשֶׁ֛ה אֶת־דִּבְרֵ֥י הָעָ֖ם אֶל־יְהֹוָֽה׃
And the LORD said to Moses, “I will come to you in a thick cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.” Then Moses reported the people’s words to the LORD.
There is a paradox when it comes to Heaven. We see in the Torah that God can close the heavens and hold back the rain, as well as the promise that God can open the heavens and allow rain to fall. The paradox is this: When the heavens are “closed” and no rain falls, the sky appears open and clear. Rain does not fall when there are no clouds. When the heavens are “opened” and rain flows freely, the sky appears shut, as dark cloud cover replaces a blue expanse.
The implication here is that it is only when the heavens are obscured that they can be fully open. It’s similar to this verse where God reveals God’s self in obscurity, in a thick cloud. That means that if we can see clearly, God is farther away. When we cannot, God is closer.
There are times that I feel like God is closer, and times when I feel like God is farther. When I held my son for the first time I felt deeply close to the divine. When I am confronted with the tragedy of a sudden death I feel like God is far away. In moments of grief, when clarity is replaced with a dark cloud, I wonder if God is actually closer, as the verse suggests. Whether or not this is the case (it certainly does not feel that way) I do find in those darker moments a hint that God may be close. It is in those moments when empathy and kindness replace animosity that hearts are opened wider and love penetrates more deeply.