Off the Pulpit

Absent Presences

In Torah class we are studying the Song of Songs. Verse 3:1 reads: “Upon my couch at night I sought the one I love. I sought but found him not.” Sometimes we feel another most keenly through absence. 

The French philosopher Sartre spoke about the absence of God using the analogy of waiting for someone in a café. As you fix on the door, waiting for your friend to come, you are more focused on her nonappearance than on the presence of all the other people who actually walk in the door. Similarly, said Sartre, God in absence sometimes feels more real than people in their presence. 

The grandson of Rebbe Baruch of Medziboz, was playing hide-and-seek. After waiting for a long time, he came out of his hiding place and ran to his grandfather crying. “I hid and no one looked for me.” The Rabbi, tears in his own eyes, answered, “That’s exactly what the Almighty says: ‘I hide and no one looks for Me.'”

Many people feel God is missing without considering that in the absence itself, you may be sensing the presence of God.