At Mount Sinai the people asked Moses ” You speak to us…and we will obey; but let not God speak to us, lest we die.”( Ex: 20:16)
Conducting a direct relationship with God still frightened the people. They needed a “mediator.”
During the construction of the Mishkan, as an ardent partner in its construction, there was some “shift” and the people felt the need to get closer, to have a closer relationship. The Book of Leviticus gives the “recipe” for establishing such a relationship, for getting closer to God, through the Torah of sacrifice (The root letters ק.ר.ב. in Hebrew implies on intimacy, on getting closer and those are the same root letter of the word קרבן=sacrifice)
But what happens to Moses? Why is he moving away instead of getting closer?
My spotlight in this D’var Torah is on Moshe the man:
He was sitting some distance from the tabernacle, which had just been inaugurated.
“Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud had settled upon it and the Presence of God filled the Tabernacle”. (Ex. 40:35)
It was not the cloud that prevented him from entering the tabernacle. He was misunderstood.
Did he not access the thick cloud where God was at Mount Sini? (Ex.20:18)
So now a cloud will stop him? No way.
It was a different kind of cloud that kept him from approaching, a cloud that settled on his heart. A heavy cloud like a cloud of rain about to erupt.
Thoughts passed through his mind and pierced his heart. After all it was about his beloved brother, but the train of thoughts galloped forward mercilessly: Was he not deserve the role of high priest? Why Aron does and he is not?
After all, it was him, Moses, who brought the people out of slavery to freedom, brought down the Torah to them, mediated the divine voice for them, supervised all the works of building the Mishkan until it stood on its pedestal and was consecrated, is he now not worthy to serve as high priest?
In the process of construction, a young bud sprouted in his heart and took the form of a longing he did not dare to express: to change the mondain clothes he wore at the desert in the fancy priestly garment, to serve holiness, for only he was privileged to speak to God face-to-face.
But he did not accept the role of spiritual leader as he expected to happen. His brother Aaron was appointed high priest. And he, Moses, what will become of him from now on?
Will he be forced to continue to hold on to the old role of being just the desert guide? Carry them on his back with their incessant complaints, lead them in their wars, punish them when necessary?
Like a windless sail he felt now, stuck in place.
Is that all God is planning for him?
Then suddenly he heard the voice calling to him.
Moses, my dearest one, I call you, why are you sitting far from me, outside the tabernacle?
Did you think that if the work of the Tabernacle was finished then your work was finished?
That now when the tabernacle has been finished only Aaron your brother whom I have appointed as high priest, will have a major role? And you will stay “outside”?
Come here, come closer, I have an important thing to tell you:
Your great work is just beginning now!
True, Aaron is the high priest, and he is in charge of the work in the tabernacle but you are the great teacher!
Your role from today is to teach the children of Israel what is purity (an open state to the Holy) and what is impurity (a state that is closed to the Holy),
And how to move between these two states. How to move from the closed to the open, how to leave the channel of communication with me open, how to approach me.
It is important that you teach them what are the barriers (sins) that close the channel,
What are the things that miss the mark (of leaving the channel open)
This is very important because I do not want them to think that if they have sinned then it’s irreversible, then they lost touch with me and cannot come close to me any more.
There are certain rituals that your job it is to teach them so that they can embody with their deeds the intentions and the desire to return to me, to act out of harmony and in full synchronization with me.
This is a complete doctrine, the doctrine of sacrificial offerings: how in certain situations they can come closer to me again.
And now, when the sin of the calf is still fresh in their memory – this is the perfect time!
I know that even in loving relationships – sometimes one is saying things that one does not mean,
err in words and sometimes also in deeds, and then each part may close in on itself and not see the face or inwardness of the other (In Hebrew same word: (פנים
But face to face is the situation we would like to stay in. In love,in intimacy, inside to inside, heart -to-heart
These rituals will also help me connect to the side of CHESED (loving kindness) within me, which will prevail and transcend the side of DIN within me so that I too can approach them back and act with compassion.
So do not sit there outside, away from the tent of meeting and do not be shy
There is no reason for you to feel “out” or unnecessary or unimportant. Come, come near me, my dear one.
A small drop made its way down his cheek.
The heavy cloud began to rise and dissipate.
May we all be blessed to be privileged to personally hear the call on our behalf to approach from within our inner abode and experience intimacy and connection.
- A big thanks to Dr. Aviva Zornberg with whom I’ve studied the relevant Midrashim that inspired me to write this D’var Torah.