weekly Torah reading: parashas Vayakhel-Pekudei 5783
“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the L-RD filled the tabernacle.” – Exodus 40:34, JPS 1917 Tanach
H’Shem’s Presence appeared to B’nei Yisrael, before they crossed the Sea of Reeds; at that time, H’Shem’s presence was manifest in the form of the cloud, and the pillar of fire. At Sinai, H’Shem’s Presence was accompanied by thunder and lightning (Exodus 19:18). And the cloud rested atop Sinai: “‘Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee’” (Exodus 19:9, JPS).
When Moshe was on Sinai with Aaron, Nadav and Avihu and the seventy elders of Israel, (see 24:9), he was called by H’Shem, “Come up to Me into the Mount and be there; and I will give thee the tables of stone,” and thus, “Moses entered into the midst of the cloud.” (24:18). R. Bachya explains that just as he was called to go into the cloud of H’Shem’s glory at Sinai, the only way he could enter the sanctuary when the cloud of glory filled the sanctuary was when H’Shem would first call to him (40:34, sefaria). “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the L-RD filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34, JPS 1917 Tanach).
Consider that to a certain extent, a parallel lesson can be drawn from this reading, wherein we too will find that as we approach H’Shem, the way may be obscured by His glory, like the cloud atop Sinai and within the Mishkan (Tabernacle). We may find that we are not able to draw any closer to Him than we are at current, until He calls us from within the obscurity of our understanding. Then, we may enter a cloud, so to speak, of initial unknowing (like leaving our comfort zone) that will eventually bring us to a greater understanding.
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