Posted on March 12, 2021
The very end of the book of Exodus might cause us to give a double-take:
When Moses had finished the work, the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence of the LORD filled the Tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud had settled upon it and the Presence of the LORD filled the Tabernacle. Ex. 40:33-34
Wait, what!? The sanctuary that they had been building for so long, that Moshe himself had been working on for so many chapters, the sanctuary was finished and Moshe could not enter it?
What are we to make of this?
One possibility is that once the sanctuary was finished, Moshe could no longer access it. He had to turn it over to others to run it (Rabbi Peretz Rodman). Another possibility is that Moshe was not entirely banned from the holy space, but he had to wait until God invited him in (Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra).
We know what it is like to be banned from the sanctuary and to be waiting to be called to go back in. We also know what it is like to seek and find God in other places as well as the sanctuary.
Several chapters ago we read: וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם׃ Let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them. Exodus 25:8. God can be found when we reach out to each other. God can be found when we help each other. God can be found in the words of the Torah and our tradition and in the discussions about Torah and our tradition. God can be found in the springtime flowering.
Next week we begin reading Vayikra, Leviticus. The first word of Leviticus is Vayikra, God called. We find God also when we listen for God’s call. As we enter the season of Pesah –this week is also HaHodesh, marking two weeks before Pesah– let us think about how we respond to God’s call to be part of the Jewish community and to help repair the world.
Tonight I will offer reflections on the recent Rabbinical Assembly convention and share some learning from it.