Source Sheet by Yair Robinson
(34) the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence of יהוה filled the Tabernacle. (35) Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud had settled upon it and the Presence of יהוה filled the Tabernacle. (36) When the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the Israelites would set out, on their various journeys; (37) but if the cloud did not lift, they would not set out until such time as it did lift. (38) For over the Tabernacle a cloud of יהוה rested by day, and fire would appear in it by night, in the view of all the house of Israel throughout their journeys.
(לד) וַיְכַ֥ס הֶעָנָ֖ן אֶת־אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֑ד וּכְב֣וֹד יְהֹוָ֔ה מָלֵ֖א אֶת־הַמִּשְׁכָּֽן׃ (לה) וְלֹא־יָכֹ֣ל מֹשֶׁ֗ה לָבוֹא֙ אֶל־אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֔ד כִּֽי־שָׁכַ֥ן עָלָ֖יו הֶעָנָ֑ן וּכְב֣וֹד יְהֹוָ֔ה מָלֵ֖א אֶת־הַמִּשְׁכָּֽן׃ (לו) וּבְהֵעָל֤וֹת הֶֽעָנָן֙ מֵעַ֣ל הַמִּשְׁכָּ֔ן יִסְע֖וּ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל בְּכֹ֖ל מַסְעֵיהֶֽם׃ (לז) וְאִם־לֹ֥א יֵעָלֶ֖ה הֶעָנָ֑ן וְלֹ֣א יִסְע֔וּ עַד־י֖וֹם הֵעָלֹתֽוֹ׃ (לח) כִּי֩ עֲנַ֨ן יְהֹוָ֤ה עַֽל־הַמִּשְׁכָּן֙ יוֹמָ֔ם וְאֵ֕שׁ תִּהְיֶ֥ה לַ֖יְלָה בּ֑וֹ לְעֵינֵ֥י כׇל־בֵּֽית־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בְּכׇל־מַסְעֵיהֶֽם׃
- We come to the end of the book of Exodus, concluding this story that began with Avdut–slavery–and ends with freedom, but also Avodah–service–to God and holiness
- It’s worth noting that, as the book of Exodus began, God’s presence isn’t felt, and Israel is forced to construct meaningless cities, acts of servitude that lack any purpose
- Now, Israel has constructed a Tabernacle, a place of holiness for themselves, a place where God’s presence will be made known to them, the Divine Spirit seemingly hovering over it night and day.
- But even with the end of the book, there is a sense that this is not the end of the story–“happily ever after” and all that
- We are told that the presence of God was there b’chol maseihem–in all their journeys. That is, wherever they went, whatever they did, God was present. What does that mean?
- In the Commentary Etz Hayyim, a possible answer: there are moments when God erupts into our lives with special intensity that transforms us (a wedding, a birth of a child, escape from danger, and the like). Then God is a constant presence in our lives as well–in marriage, parenthood, our work and our interactions with one another). The challenge is not to see God in those bright flashes of the extraordinary, but to see holiness in the ordinary as well. Israel in Exodus has seen miracle after miracle; and now they see God as a constant presence. So it is with us. May we see what is holy, what is right, what is loving in our day-to-day, to let even those moments bring brilliant illumination to our lives.