For those who are so inclined, here's a short text from Kedushat Levi which arises out of one line of last week's Torah portion. This was our Torah study text at my shul this past Shabbat. This text can be found on p. 82 in my edition of KL. You can also find KL's teachings on this week's parsha, in Hebrew with slightly clunky English translations, at Kedushat Levi Translations: Vayishlach.
Kedushat Levi is the compilation of Torah teachings from Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (1740–1809), who was known as the "defense attorney" for the Jewish people because it was believed that he could intercede on our behalf before God. He was known for his compassion for every Jew.
"And he called the name of that place Peni'el [lit. "The face of God"], 'for I have seen God face to face, yet my life (soul) has been spared.'" (Genesis 32:31)
Some people serve the Blessed Creator in order that good things might flow from God because of their service.
This is a great spiritual level to attain: serving the Blessed Creator without the intention of receiving goodness for oneself. As a result of this, one becomes great and in control.
The essence of this is called "face to face," because that person serves the Blessed Creator and receives greatness and control, and God meets that person face to face.
The second way of relating to God is called "face to back," for the blessed Creator faces him with the divine face, and the person, as it were, serves in order to receive goodness upon himself.
This is the second (lower) level of "for I have seen God face to face." At this level, "and my life has been spared" speaks in the language of separation.
This is the hint: that it did not arise upon that one's heart to serve for the sake of something close to his soul, e.g., in order to receive goodness from the blessed God. This is a level of serving for one's own sake, and the other is a level of serving God not for one's own sake.
Questions for consideration:
What does it mean (in Reb Levi Yitzchak's understanding) to serve God "face to face"? And what does it mean to serve "face to back"?
Which one of these is a higher spiritual level to attain?
Is it a bad thing to serve God for one's own sake, seeking goodness for oneself?
How might we try to serve God "face to face" in our own lives?
What does "to serve God" mean to you?