In the Zohar, there is a discussion amongst the kabbalists about Moses’ request to see God. Moses had reached an elevated consciousness and awareness, which was free from the conventional blockages we all encounter; blockages that prevent us from seeing things as they really are.
Moses wants to see God, to which God responds, “You cannot see My face, for anyone seeing My face cannot live.” So it is a Catch-22. If we see God we cannot live, yet if we do not see God we are only left to assume that God is actually there.
I will try to explain this spiritual concept using an example: If you attended a fighter plane exhibition, you would be able to hear the noise that the planes make as they fly around, but you would not be able to see them; the naked eye can only see the plane’s vapor, not the plane itself. This idea can help us understand what God is saying to Moses. On the physical level—where we exist—we cannot live if we see God; for no one in their physical body can see God and live. In our physical body we cannot observe both this world and God simultaneously. Just like, in the example, if we focus on the plane we do not see the vapor, while if we focus on the vapor we do not see the plane.
Sometimes we try to combine the effects of our physical reality with the spiritual reality. But God operates on another level entirely, and as such, the effects are not immediately observed. We cannot think that just because we use all the spiritual tools available to us, that we can say, and get, exactly what we want, when we want it. We cannot have both. We must say to ourselves, “I want it when God finds it appropriate,” because we do not see the entire picture.
On a spiritual level all we can see are the effects—the vapor of the airplane, so to speak. When we get to a point where we experience the vapor over and over and over again, then we know that the vapor means there is a plane nearby. In this way we have certainty, and in this same way we can come to say we know God—from our own experience.
Sometimes it appears that the removal of chaos from this world will never come about, and this is exactly when we need to leave it to God. If we know that we have done what we need to do, if we have seen it work before, then we know, with certainty, that we can leave it to God.
This is what God is saying to Moses; things don’t work on a spiritual level exactly as we experience them on a physical level. On the physical level everything ultimately ends. The Zohar teaches us that we are not here for the short experience of the physical level; we are here for something more permanent.