Parashat Pekudei

Experiencing God In The Dark And The Light

We should strive to feel the presence of God in our lives, just as the presence of God filled the Tabernacle.

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"And the glory of Adonai filled the Tabernacle.…" The entire Sanctuary was filled with Israel's love and the longing for God, because the Sanctuary and its utensils had come from the people's donations and their strong desire to express their love of God. As a result, the Shechinah (divine presence) rested upon them, filling every single possible place. That is what is meant by "the glory of Adonai filled the Sanctuary" (R. Yaakov Aryeh of Radzimin on Exodus 40:34 in Torah Gems).

"Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting…." It is unclear whether entry is literally hindered, or is impermissible, or that he simply dared not enter (Nahum Sarna on Exodus 40:35 in JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus, p.237).

"Moses was not able to come into the Tent of Meeting"--even to the door, because the cloud covered it, and he was not permitted to come into the cloud. Moreover, "the Glory of the Eternal filled the Tabernacle," so how could he enter it? The reason for this was so that Moses should not go in without permission, but instead God would call him and then he was to come into the midst of the cloud, just as God had done at Mount Sinai (Ramban).

At this point, there are two embodiments of holiness in the Israelite camp: the Tent of Meeting (Ohel Mo-eid) and the Tabernacle (Mishkan). We can think of them as representing a theology of encounter and a theology of presence. There are moments (a wedding, the birth of a child, an escape from danger) when God erupts into our lives with a special intensity that transforms us but that is too intense to be lived constantly. Then there are times when God is a constant presence in our lives (marriage, parenthood, years of good health) in an equally real but less intense manner. The challenge is to recognize God's constant presence in our lives without its becoming so ordinary that we take it for granted (Benno Jacob on Exodus 40:35 in Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary, The Jewish Publication Society, 1999, pp. 571-2).

"For the cloud of Adonai was upon the Sanctuary by day, and fire was on it by night…." This is a lesson for every person. Each person is considered to be like a sanctuary in his own right, and when good fortune shines on him, he should always be aware of the cloud that can come and darken his life. On the other hand, when things are bad and everything is dark around him, he should not despair, because the sun will yet shine for him (Yalkut Eliezer on Exodus 40:38 in Torah Gems).

Your Guide

Sarna suggests that the cloud allowed the Israelites to constantly feel or notice God's Presence. Is there any symbol or ritual that makes us feel that way today?

A b'rit is that special covenant between God and the Jewish people. Is R. Yaakov Aryeh of Radzimin suggesting that the donations to the Tabernacle and the subsequent Presence of God reflect the renewing of the b'rit, or is he proposing that this a new beginning?

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Lisa Lieberman Barzilai is the Regional Educator for the Union for Reform Judaism's Greater New York Council.