Saturday 9th March 2019 2nd Adar 2 5779
by Rabbi Daniel Nevins, Pearl Resnick Dean of The Rabbinical School and the Division of Religious Leadership
Exodus 38:21-40:38; 1 Kings 7:51-8:21; 2 Corinthians 3:7-18
There is a rather dramatic ending to the book of Shemot - of Exodus. After all the effort to design, build, and assemble the Tabernacle, the divine glory enters the structure as a cloud, driving out Moses and obscuring the sacred precincts from view.
In the priestly sections of the Torah, the divine glory (kavod) is enveloped by cloud cover, apparently to protect the people. Israel Knohl argues that these depictions also “serve to stress the impersonal aspect of divinity and to avoid anthropomorphic imagery” (Sanctuary of Silence, 130). Yet it could be that the clouds make divinity more approachable and give license to the imagination to find God in the mysterious mist. Divine presence will no longer be limited to the mountaintop but will be accessible to all, right in the centre of the camp. (this is even more true in the person of Yeshua who said in Matt 18:20 that “where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." )
But, God’s presence in the midst of the camp proved to be a temporary arrangement. After the incident of the golden calf, Moses moves the Tabernacle outside the camp—an apparent rebuke to the people for their insolence and “stiff necks.” Still, the Torah states that anyone who seeks God can step out of camp and approach the Tent of Meeting. Indeed, everyone could watch Moses doing just that, speaking face to face with God, who appeared in the guise of a cloud, (Exod. 33: 1–11). The divine glory has departed the camp, but not gone too far. All it takes is willingness to step outside to where the cloud and the glory await spiritual seekers.
Generations later Solomon will dedicate the Temple, saying, “The Lord has chosen to abide in a thick cloud” (I Kings 8:12; cf. II Chron. 6:1). This text, which is our haftarah for Shabbat Pekude