dvar Torah for 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
At Sinai, H’Shem’s Presence was observable in the form of thunder and lightning (Exodus 19:18). His Presence was seen by B’nei Yisrael, previously, 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. Additionally, 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 (see commentary on 40:34, sefaria).
Therefore, let us consider that to a certain extent, if a parallel lesson can be drawn from this reading, then 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 close to Him until He calls us from within the obscurity of our understanding.
R. Bachya further explains, that Moshe was not permitted to share the same “space with G-d’s attribute of kavod (glory);” rather, when he was called either on Sinai, or at the Mishkan, “it was an indication to him that this attribute had departed” from the area (sefaria.org). The experience of Moshe shows how even he was not able to approach G-d’s attribute of glory.
Thus, when we consider ourselves, we are not at the madreiga (level) of Moshe. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of G-d” (Romans 3:23, English Standard Version). Our sins weigh us down to the extent of which we need to realize that in this state, we can hardly approach G-d.
Yet, He calls to us, as it were, through he who tabernacled among us. “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We looked upon his glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, Tree of Life Version). “The radiance of His glory and the imprint of His being” (Hebrews 1:3, Tree of Life Version).
In another translation, “And the Dvar H’Shem [Word of G-d] took on gufaniyut (corporeality) and made his sukkah, his Mishkan (Tabernacle) among us, and we gazed upon his Kavod, the Shechinah of the Ben Yachid [Only Son] from Elokim HaAv [G-d, the Father]” (Yochanan 1:14, Orthodox Jewish Bible).
And, in the Book of Revelations, regarding H’Shem’s Presence at the end of the age, after the new heavens and earth: “And I heard a kol gadol (loud voice), a Bat Kol from the Kisse (Throne) saying, “Hinei, The Mishkan of H’Shem is with men, and he shall tabernacle with them, and they shall be His people, and H’Shem Himself shall dwell among them” (Hisgalus 21:3, OJB).