Sedra of the week: Vayakhel Pekudei
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Sedra of the week: Vayakhel Pekudei

Rabbi Alex Chapper looks at the forthcoming week’s portion of the Torah

The most ambitious construction project was complete and the Mishkan – the portable desert sanctuary – was established according to God’s instruction.

So we would expect a triumphant climax to the people’s efforts as the divine presence fills God’s magnificent earthly abode.

And yet the book of Shemot closes with what appears to be the greatest anti-climax for all those involved, especially for Moses, who managed the entire project.

As we read, “And the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and God’s glory filled the Mishkan. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud rested upon it and God’s glory filled the Mishkan.” (Shemot 40:34-35)

Imagine having expended all that effort to create a space in this world worthy of the divine presence and then being excluded from it.

It is reminiscent of Moses’ earlier request, ‘God, please show me your glory’, which was a  desire to understand His ways, to answer how God, who is vaster than the universe, can live within the universe in a comprehensible way, not just in the form of miraculous intervention.

On that occasion God says: ‘No living person can see My face’, as we do not have the capacity to grasp the answer. So we are forced to ask what is the point?

Why do we attempt to create a place for God in our world if we cannot perceive Him anyway?

Rashbam explains that this all-encompassing cloud only appeared at the very moment the Mishkan was first established to make known God’s nature.

Eventually, God would constrict Himself so to speak, to dwell in a defined area space.

God was conveying a powerful and eternal message that He will completely fill any space we create for Him.

Whether in a Mishkan, in our homes or in our hearts, wherever we make space for God in our lives is where we will most fully feel His presence.

Alex Chapper is community rabbi of Borehamwood & Elstree Synagogue

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