The Sheltering Presence
dvar for Sukkot 5782
“Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the L-RD.” – Leviticus 23:34, JPS 1917 Tanach
We are commanded to dwell in sukkoth (booths) for a seven-day period, as a commemoration of our dwelling in sukkoth –temporary structures –while wandering in the desert for forty years. During this time spent travelling from one place to another, the Children of Israel were protected by the Clouds of Glory that sheltered them from the heat of the day; the Pillar of Fire at night provided illumination for B’nei Yisrael, as well as warmth.
The sukkoth [booths] that we build at this time of year are meant to remind us of the temporary structures in the wilderness wherein our ancestors dwelt. According to some commentators, these structures built between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, wherein we either dwell in, or, at least, have meals within, symbolize the Clouds of Glory that served as a shelter from the elements. Thus, it is the schach – the thatched roof – in particular, that reminds us, that in actuality, it was G-d’s presence, manifested as the Clouds of Glory that protected us, above and beyond what these structures could provide.
When we dwell in sukkot for seven days, we are demonstrating our trust in H’Shem. These fragile dwellings serve not only to remind us of our past journeys in the desert; rather, also, as a personal reminder to seek G-d as our refuge. When we are troubled by the nisyanos (challenges) of Olam HaZeh (This World), we may find relief in H’Shem’s offer of protection for those who seek Him.
“For He concealeth me in His pavilion [sukkah] in the day of evil; He hideth me in the covert of His tent; He lifteth me upon a rock.” – Psalm 27:5, JPS 1917 Tanach
“The veil shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy.”
– Exodus 26:33, JPS 1917 Tanach
The Ark of the Covenant with the tablets, rested within the Kadosh Kadoshim – the Holy of Holies. The cover was designed with two golden cherubim with their wings spanning the breadth of the Ark. The Holy of Holies was separated by the paroches – a veil – a finely embroidered curtain that was placed between the holiest place where the Ark containing the Ten Commandments was kept, and the Kadosh (Holy place), where the menorah, showbread table and copper incense mizbeach (altar) were placed. The holy place was frequented by the Kohein, while the most holy place received one visitor each year – the Kohein Gadol – only on Yom Kippur.
Although the offerings made within the mishkan were facilitated by the Kohein, symbolically, Torah points us in the direction of making ourselves a sanctuary for H’Shem’s Presence. According to the pasuk (verse), “Make Me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell within them” (Exodus 25:8). Therefore, let us consider, that we need to clear away a space inside of ourselves, in order to invite H’Shem to dwell within us. It is not necessary to use a broom and dustpan; although, figuratively speaking, perhaps, a feather to clean our minds and hearts, according to the moral inventory of Torah.
In preparing ourselves to sense H’Shem’s Presence, through the kedushah (holiness) that we create by sanctifying our lives, with respect to our higher aspirations, we remove ourselves from the realm of unholiness. Within our “inner sanctum” – the holy of holies – where only each one of us as sovereign individual of our own soul may enter, there we find H’Shem in the solace of a quiet refuge. “Rest in the L-rd, and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7).
“Who shall ascend into the mountain of the L-RD? And who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart. – Psalms 24:3-4, JPS 1917 Tanach
reflection: G-d’s Providence – Words Give Life
Torah Highlight: Vayikra
March 22, 2020
“The L-RD called unto Moses, and spoke unto him out of the tent of meeting.”
– Leviticus 1:1, JPS 1917 Tanach
After the Mishkan (portable tabernacle in the wilderness) was built, H’Shem called to Moshe from within the sanctuary, where His presence resides above the Ark of the Covenant, between the two golden cherubim on the cover of the Ark. What is notable about this invitation to Moshe is that “Moses could never enter the Tabernacle without first having obtained permission to do so” (Sforno, commentary on Exodus 24:16, sefaria.org).
Sforno references the pasuk (verse), wherein Moshe is called to enter into the Cloud of Glory, while previously on Sinai, before the building of the Mishkan. “And the glory of the L-RD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days; and the seventh day He called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud” (Exodus 24:16). The comparison alludes to the similarity between Sinai and the Mishkan. The Mishkan (tabernacle) became the dwelling place of H’Shem’s presence, as the Targum clearly states in its specificity:
“And it was when Mosheh had completed to erect the tabernacle that Mosheh reasoned and judged in his heart, and said: To Mount Sinai, whose excellency is the excellence only of an hour and its holiness the holiness but of three days, I could not ascend till the time that the word was spoken to me; but the excellence of this the tabernacle of ordinance is an eternal excellency, and its holiness an everlasting holiness; therefore is it right that I should not enter within it until the time that I am spoken with from before the L-rd.”
– Targum Jonathan, sefaria.org