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Hidden Presence

Torah portion: Leviticus 22:26 – 23:44; Numbers 29:12-16

Although the Torah reading for the second day of Sukkot is the same as the first day, the haftorah is different. The haftorah for the first day of Sukkot (Zechariah 14:1-21) concerns the events leading up to the Final Redemption of Israel, and the beginning of the Messianic Kingdom. All of the peoples who are left on the face of the earth, after the Battle at Har Megiddo, will be required to send a delegation every year to Jerusalem, during Sukkot, in order to bring offerings for H’Shem. As is written, “All who survive of all those nations that came up against Jerusalem shall make a pilgrimage year by year to bow low to the King L’RD of Hosts and to observe the Feast of Booths” (Zechariah 14:16, JPS 1985 Tanach).

Haftorah: 1 Kings 8:2-21

“Now when the kohanim came out of the Holy Place, the cloud filled the House of the L’RD, so that the kohanim could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the L’RD filled the House of the L’RD. Then Solomon spoke: ‘The L’RD said that He would dwell in the thick cloud. I have surely built You a magnificent House, a place for Your dwelling forever.”

  • 1 Kings 8:10-13, TLV

The haftorah for the second day of Sukkot is about the event described as the inauguration of the first Temple (Beis HaMikdash), built by Solomon in Jerusalem, and inaugurated during the seven day festival of Sukkot. During the inauguration, the kohanim (priests) are overwhelmed by H’Shem’s presence, in the form of a Cloud that fills the sanctuary, Solomon’s words convey a deep understanding of H’Shem, no only a description of the physical phenomenon of the cloud: “The L’RD said that He would dwell in the thick cloud” (1 Kings 8:12, TLV). When did H’Shem say that He would dwell in the thick cloud? It is written in Torah, “And the L’RD said unto Moses: ‘Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee” (Exodus 19:9, JPS 1917 Tanach).

At Sinai, H’Shem appeared to Moses within the midst of a thick cloud visible to the people, encamped at the base of the mountain. This connotes the mystery of H’Shem’s presence, hidden within a cloud, unseen to those who stand outside of the cloud. However, Moses entered into the thick cloud, in order to commune with H’Shem. Elsewhere, it is written, “Clouds and darkness are round about Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (Psalms 97:2, JPS 1917 Tanach). Thus, both the passage, concerning Moses at Sinai, and the verse from tehillim (psalms) may be understood to convey a profound mystery.