2 Adar ll
Shabbat Shalom to all.
The last few weeks have been so complicated for me, with many worries and concerns, both personally and professionally, without adding the concerns about the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and its consequences for the world´s economy. On top of that, the government of my country unfortunately is distancing itself daily from its best commercial and political partner: the United States. This led me to reflect on this week’s portion Pekudei, as it feels like a thick curtain of cloud is spreading over humanity, bringing uncertainty to our communities.
In the beginning, when the Bore Olam created the Heavens and the Earth, it says in Bereshit (Genesis 1:2) “Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God (Ruach Elohim) hovered over the face of the waters; וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים, מְרַחֶפֶת עַל- וְהָאָרֶץ, הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ, וְחֹשֶׁךְ, עַל-פְּנֵי תְהוֹם; וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים, מְרַחֶפֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם”. It seems to me that I have read this portion I don’t know how many times, and yet I have never really connected it with Shemot (Exodus).
Shemot and the story of the Mishkan is like the story of creation as a microcosm of the world when the Eternal ordered with his mouth and things were made. In Bereshit, He ordered with His Mouth like vibratory waves or however you want label it and the stars, the sun, the firmament, and the earth were made, with the culmination of man. Then, at the end of all His creation, God decided to contemplate His work, and to bless His Creation, by creating the Shabbat.
With this in mind, we see in the book of Shemot that Israel was in a dense darkness; it was a nation of people without form and order, empty, and even though they were unaware, the Ruach Elohim, the Spirit of God moved among them. In the darkness called Mitzraim (Egypt), which symbolizes our narrow mindedness and our limitations that do not allow us to advance in our lives, we lived in physical, mental, and spiritual slavery, contaminated by the idolatry of Egypt, and we were being immersed in practices far from the inheritance that we had received from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The story indicates that Pharaoh decided to raise himself up as a “god-man” and then to take the lives of babies, seeking the extinction and elimination of any trace of Israel so that it would be a forgotten people, as many other peoples had become extinct. However, again, the Ruach Elohim, as described in Bereshit, moved among us.
The Eternal decided to send Moshe, who despite having lived in darkness for 80 years, was illuminated in the midst of the burning bush (which did not burn or go out in defiance of physical laws) and this meeting was in a “holy” place where Moshe’s life changed forever; he became the chosen leader and God’s instrument to guide Israel out of Egypt. This is when we see the 10 wonders that the Eternal sent which would peak with the death of the firstborn. Israel was then blessed with wealth from the Egyptians to leave their land, but not before having celebrated Pesach and having eaten matzah. Again, we read that they suffer yet another siege from the Egyptian army and in their darkest moment, when there was no physical and logical way out, the Eternal showed them their salvation: He opened Yam Suf, the Sea of Reeds.
Now, the Eternal would begin to manifest in this physical plane, even though He does not have a body, a shape, a form, or any physical aspect of Him, He decided to manifest Himself through fire, cloud, and lightning at Mt. Sinai. Even though Israel recognized Moshe as their envoy and that the Creator was above any known idea of their “god”, they decided again to fall into disorder, emptiness, and darkness with the incident of the golden calf, breaking the commandments and breaking the relationship of love with the Eternal.
Now, amid this story stands the Eternal, who continued the communication with Moshe, in such a way that showed him to be a “remedy” so that Israel could focus and move away from the idea of an “abstract God to a God who is practical, real, and alive, and who can be perceived and felt with the senses”.
This is how the Mishkan was created, but not without it first being made clear that the Shabbat is above the Mishkan. The Mishkan offered certain opportunities to remake and re-establish the communion between Israel (man) and the Bore Olam, the Creator.
Remember, the relationship with God had been broken from the moment we failed to obey the First Commandment, however, despite our decision to break our relationship with Him, God still wants to dwell among us. The fact that He established an “earthly or temporary dwelling” that could never contain God has two aspects; first, it shows God’s love for us and covers the error of those who, because of their guilt, feel unable to approach God; second, it stopped the destruction caused as a result of the incident of the golden calf; it was necessary to re-establish the person to person relationship in the midst of the community, Why? Because of the acts of violence and death, and because we are human beings. Although the slaughter had stopped, we are not sure if everyone accepted these acts by the Levites of killing their fellowmen without question.
So now the Mishkan became a common goal – a motivation to work hand in hand; a reason to work united without the need to consider one more important than another (That was the idea behind the giving of the half shekel) and above all, to give us a national identity, which our people have until today: The temple, the Menorah, the (Kyor) laver, etc. By working together, it allowed the people to re-establish their relationship with each other and to turn the page on previous events, allowing them to move forward as a cohesive team.
However, until now, we see that God remained hidden, and that He had only manifested Himself at Mt. Sinai. The cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night accompanied them, but after the golden calf, the cloud disappeared. Once the works were finished, Moshe saw this microcosm as the Eternal did in Creation; they do the work (chapters 25:8,10 and 23, and chapter 31), the work was finished (40:33), it was contemplated, and it was blessed (39: 43).
When the work was fully completed, chapter 40:34 says: “Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. — And whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward, throughout all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and there was fire therein by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.” After an episode of darkness, the Light returned, the Divine Presence, just as the Divine Presence manifested itself in Creation.
With this idea in mind, it says that Moshe could not enter the tent because of the dense cloud. That is how the book of Shemot ends, but then we begin Vayikra when the Eternal called him from the dark place that Moshe could not enter. It says: “Vayikra Moshe vayedaber Adonai elav me’Ohel Mo’ed. And the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting.”
You know, the dark processes are necessary in our lives, because they generate more life. This week I listened to a class by Rabbi David Peretz, and I was amazed by his idea which I will paraphrase: “Do you know where a baby’s life is formed? In the darkness…. Do you know where the human being physically achieves his full development? In the darkness…. For the baby is in darkness inside his mother’s womb, but his mother walks in light. Darkness allows the baby to develop, to complete his process so that when she gives birth, he is in optimal condition. We can say the same about chickens, to be inside the shell is to be in darkness or of seeds in the earth ….”
Today, we are living in darkness; for some, it‘s a source of fear, concern, and even terror, but for those of us who trust in the Eternal, it is a process of forming something better. As Tehilim Psalms 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we praise the name of Adonai our God” And in Malachi 4:2 “But to you who fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings;”.
What are we so worried about? Are we in the dark; is it about health, money, family problems? Remember, the Ruach Elohim the Spirit of God moves among the waters, amidst our problems, though we may not see it, He is in the midst of us.
And as we end the book of Exodus we say:
Chazak Chazak v’nitchazek! חזק חזק ונתחזק
Be Strong! Be Strong! And Be Strengthened