The Seventy Faces

In the Jewish rabbinic tradition, the rabbis talk about how the Torah has seventy faces. This means there are a plurality of different interpretations. So reading the scripture might require multiple readings to discover all of the various faces, or perspectives. Often within the Jewish commentary, commentators might even hold opposing views on the same passage. One rabbi said it this way: “Turn it over and over, for all is within it”.

This is such a refreshing perspective to take, not only on reading scripture but also in life in general. Whether we’re talking about the news, politics, or education — it seems like everyone has to come down on a specific side of an issue without any regard for nuance or ambiguity.

I think the root of this desire for certainty is often fear. Uncertainty and ambiguity can be frightening because it means the future is open and undetermined. Most of us prefer to obsessively control our options and meticulously manage our place in the world.

The truth is that the world is inherently complex and beauty can be found when we are willing to turn it over and over. Instead of immediately searching for absolute truth and dispelling any doubts, try sitting with the uncertainty.

One way I have found to help me with this concept is to practice meditation and mindfulness. In fact, the goal of many meditation practices is to achieve a state of “nonduality” — where the dichotomy of the “other” is transcended and your awareness reaches a place where everything is seen as temporary.