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

Central Glory

drash for parashas Bamidbar 5781

“The L-RD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: ‘The Israelites shall camp each with his standard, under the banners of their ancestral house; they shall camp around the Tent of Meeting at a distance.’”

– Numbers 2:1-2, JPS 1985 Tanach

B’nei Yisrael were encamped around the Mishkan, according to their tribal affiliation. Aaron’s family and Moshe’s family were encamped on the east side, facing the front of the Mishkan. The Levites were encamped on the other three surrounding sides of the Mishkan. The rest of the twelve tribes were encamped further away from the Mishkan, three tribes on each side, north, south, east, and west.

The Levites were assigned the tasks, regarding the carrying of the Mishkan. B’nei Yisrael had been encamped at Sinai; now, these responsibilities were given, specifically, to each of the three Levite families, in preparation for the movement of the camp. First, a census was taken, of all the men eligible for war. The Levites were counted separately; they were chosen “to do the service of the tabernacle” (Numbers 3:6-8, JPS).

At the center of the encampment of the B’nei Yisrael [the Children of Israel] was the Mishkan, meaning “dwelling place.” This is where H’Shem’s presence, the Shechinah dwelt. The Hebrew word, Shechinah is derived from the word Mishkan. G-d would appear to Moses, when His presence rested between the two cherubim [golden angels], on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant. Also, He appeared within the manifestation of the Clouds of Glory to all of Israel.

His Presence

parashas Terumah 5781

“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

Joseph‘s Ascent Words Give Life

weekly Torah reading: parashas Mikeitz 5782 “And Pharaoh said unto Joseph: "‘Forasmuch as G-d hath shown thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou.’” – Genesis 41:39, JPS 1917 Tanach It is written in kabbalah, that for every descent, there is an ascent: apropos to this week’s parashas, we see Joseph, whose feet were placed in “fetters, His person was laid in iron; until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the L-RD tested him” (Psalm 105:19, JPS).
  1. Joseph‘s Ascent
  2. Joseph‘s Trials
  3. The Deference of Jacob
  4. Immanence and Transcendence
  5. Sins of the Heels

Torah Highlight: Vayikra

B”H

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

weekly portion: Terumah 5780

B”H

Shiur for parashas Terumah 5780

“Let them make me a sanctuary [mikdash] that I may dwell among them.”

– Exodus 25:8, JPS 1917 Tanach

The purpose of the building of the Mishkan (portable tabernacle in the desert) was to provide a sanctuary (mikdash) for the L-RD to dwell amongst the B’nei Yisrael. H’Shem’s presence rested between the golden cherubim, on top of the cover of the Ark.

Or HaChayim notes, about the pasuk (verse), “That I may dwell among (within) them,” that “It does not say ‘within it,’ which means that the place that G-d will sanctify to dwell there is within the children of Israel.” (commentary to Exodus 25:8, sefaria.org).

The ultimate purpose of the sanctuary (mikdash) is to serve as a place of residence, so to speak, for the Shechinah. Yet, G-d’s Divine Presence may also dwell within the clay vessels that He created.

“Know ye that the L-RD He is G-d; it is He that hath made us, and we our His, His people, and the flock of His pasture.”

– Tehillim 100:3, JPS 1917 Tanach