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10.03.2015 16:34    Comments: 0    Categories: Weekly Parashah      Tags: torah  shabbat  parashah  vayakhel  pekudei  

The two parashot of Vayakhel and Pekudei conclude the lengthy and detailed description of constructing and erecting the Tabernacle, a description extending over the readings of the past five weeks. The function of the Tabernacle was stated in the beginning of Parashat Terumah: "And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them" (Ex. 25:8).

The meaning of this "dwelling" has been a subject of controversy. One the one hand Onkelos, for example, rendered it as "Let them make a sanctuary before Me, and I shall cause my Presence to dwell among them." Saadiah Gaon understood it similarly: "Let them make Me ... a sanctuary; I shall cause my Glory to be among them." Likewise Abarbanel, who explains somewhat more at length: "Let them make Me a sanctuary, a holy place, in such a way that my Presence be felt among them the way I appeared before their eyes at Mount Sinai as the Glory of the Lord, a consuming fire and a cloud encompassing it." On the other hand, Rashi said, "Let them make to the glory of My Name a place of holiness." Ibn Ezra was even more explicit: "It was called a Sanctuary because it was the dwelling place of the Holy Name."

This controversy goes back to the Torah itself and to the books of the Prophets and Writings. We have seen various attempts to reconcile the conflicting approaches, and the controversy and compromises proposed to reconcile these differing opinions have had a bearing on the perception of the synagogue to our own day.

The way in which the Lord will dwell among the Israelites is specified in this week's reading: "The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence (kevod) 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. 40:34-35). The identical description is given of the Temple built by Solomon in Jerusalem, as we read in the haftarah (according to the Ashkenazi custom): "When the priests came out of the sanctuary-for the cloud had filled the House of the Lord and the priests were not able to remain and perform the service because of the cloud, for the Presence of the Lord filled the House of the Lord" (I Kings 8:10-11).

The Lord removing His Presence from the Temple on the eve of its destruction is foreseen and described by the prophet Ezekiel in chapter 11 of his book; and His return to the Temple that would be built in the future is described in the great prophetic vision at the end of the book (Ezek. 43:2, 9). There, as in this week's reading, the Lord promises: "I will dwell among them forever" (Ezek. 43:9). Zechariah shares Ezekiel's opinion and says that in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem the Lord "will be a wall of fire all around it, and ... glory (kavod) inside it" (Zech. 2:9).

Until the Presence of the Lord entered the new Tabernacle, the Lord's presence dwelled on Mount Sinai (Ex. 24:16), and before the Israelites reached Sinai, the Lord occasionally appeared to them in the wilderness in a cloud (Ex. 15:10). Also when the Tabernacle was at Shiloh the Glory of the Lord was in it; and when the Ark was taken, the Glory departed with it, as the wife of Phinehas, daughter-in-law of Eli, said: "The glory has departed from Israel"-referring to the capture of the Ark of G-d" (I Sam. 4:21-22) [as Yehudah Kiel rightly interprets, in Da'at Mikra, I Sam., loc. sit.].

Thus we see that the Glory of the Lord is present in every sanctuary, and when the Glory of the Lord is in the sanctuary, the Lord dwells in it. But what is kevod ha-shem, alternately rendered as the Presence or the Glory of the Lord? From all the scriptural passages we have seen, the Glory of the Lord is something visible, brightly illuminating such that one cannot look directly at it, and hence it is enveloped in cloud. Regarding the theophany on Mount Sinai, it is written: "Now the Presence of the Lord appeared in the sight of the Israelites as a consuming fire on the top of the mountain" (Ex. 24:17). Elsewhere, Moses seeks to behold the Glory of the Lord, but the Lord cautions him, "man may not see Me and live"; nevertheless, when Moses is in a cleft of the rock, shielded by the hand of the Lord, the Lord shows Moses His back, as it were, but not His face (Ex. 33:18-23). What the Lord would not let Moses see, Ezekiel was so bold as to describe; and it was none other than the semblance of a human form seated on a throne, enveloped in gleaming light, at the sight of which Ezekiel flung himself down on his face (Ezek. 1:26-28).

From these passages we may deduce that "glory" is not an abstract notion as in modern speech; rather, it denotes something quite tangible. The "glory" is the gleaming halo that envelopes the Lord, as it were, and emanates from Him. This divine halo-which would astound all who saw it, causing them to fall off their feet-sometimes referred to as hod and hadar (magnificence), and even geut (grandeur) and oz (might), was itself enveloped in a cloud.

In striking contrast to all these texts, when Moses describes the theophany at Mount Sinai in Deuteronomy, he only mentions the glory of the Lord once, and that is in passing as he recounts the people's response: "you... said, 'The Lord our G-d has just shown us His majestic Presence (et kevodo ve-et godlo), and we have heard His voice out of the fire'"(Deut. 5:21). Elsewhere he mentions the Lord's abode as being in heaven (Deut. 26:15); the Lord's presence in the sanctuary is limited to His name dwelling in the place He shall choose when the Israelites come to inherit the promised land (Deut. 12:5, 11; 14:23; 16:2).

Likewise Solomon said, "I have now built for You a stately House, a place where You may dwell forever" (I Kings 8:13), which implies that the Lord dwells in the Temple. Yet at the same time, after the Ark of the Lord was brought to the Temple and the Glory of the Lord entered within, as we noted, Solomon said: "But will G-d really dwell on earth? Even the heavens to their uttermost reaches cannot contain You, how much less this House that I have built!" (I Kings 8:27). Following that he turns to supplication and mentions the eyes of the Lord, praying that they be open from His abode in Heaven toward the Temple, without the Lord Himself actually being in the Temple.

When Moses, in Deuteronomy, and Solomon, at his inauguration of the Temple, elevate G-d to heaven, they turn the earthly sanctuary standing on the chosen spot in Jerusalem into a sort of large switchboard that relays toward heaven all prayers directed to the Temple. The Lord sees those who pray at the Temple and hears their prayers, but He does not dwell there. G-d Himself confirms this role, saying, "I consecrate this House which you have built and I set My name there forever. My eyes and My heart shall ever be there" (I Kings 9:3).

These two approaches-the concrete presence of the Glory of the Lord, on the one hand, and His Name in the abstract, on the other, or the immanent Glory and the transcendental Name-are contradictory, seemingly separated by a gulf that cannot be bridged. But where there is disagreement there is also compromise. Thus, Isaiah the prophet sees the Lord sitting on an elevated throne in the Temple, while at the same time according to the seraphim there, the Glory of the Lord fills the entire earth. Likewise, frequently we find mention of the Name and the Glory, or the Glory and the Name. Suffice it to present a few select and instructive examples of such compromise.

At the end of Isaiah, in his prophecies of consolation describing the future after the return to Zion, the Lord says: "The heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool: Where could you build a house for Me, what place could serve as My abode?" (Is. 66:1). Elsewhere, He says, "I will bring them to My sacred mount and let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices shall be welcome on My altar; for My House shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples" (Is. 56:7), by which the Lord confirms the notion in Solomon's prayer, that the Temple will be a house of prayer.

But there is also room for glory. It appears that in the words of this prophet kavod-Glory or Presence-denotes the light of the Lord that will shine upon His people (Is. 60:1-2) and the magnificent building materials that all peoples will bring to the Temple, as it is written: "The majesty of Lebanon shall come to you-cypress and pine and box-to adorn the site of My Sanctuary [heb. le-fa'er mekom mikdashi], to glorify the place where My feet rest [heb. mekom raglai akhabed]" (Is. 60:13). Here to glorify [akhabed] is synonymous with to adorn [afa'er] (compare 60:7), although the root of this word-k-b-d-alludes to the glory of the Lord, which is supposed to be in the Temple.

Haggai, as well, takes a middle-of-the-road approach. In words of encouragement to the people to go to the hills and bring timber to build the Lord a House, G-d says: "then I will look on it with favor and I will be glorified" by it (Hagg.00), meaning that the magnificent House will be to glorify and adorn the Lord. Although Targum Jonathan understood the verse as meaning that G-d will consent to have His Presence dwell there in glory, Rabbi Samuel bar Inni emphasized that the glory mentioned here is not the divine Presence. He interpreted the deficient orthography (the word ikkaveda lacks the final he) as indicating the five things (Heb. letter he=five) that were found in the first Temple but were lacking from the second, namely: the Ark, kaporet and cherubs, the fire and divine Presence, the holy spirit, and the urrim and tummim (Yoma 21b).

Further on Haggai prophesies that the Lord will "fill this House with glory," and even reminds us that the Lord will "shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land" (Haggai 2:6-7), which is reminiscent of the descriptions of the Lord appearing at Mount Sinai and elsewhere. However he divests "glory" of its theological content, for the glory that will fill the Temple will not be the glory of the Lord that appears to the eye and that strikes dumb whoever gazes on it, rather it will be great opulence (cf. Gen. 31:1; I Kings 3:13; Eccles. 6:2; II Chron. 1:12). Thus the prophecies of consolation and restoration in the book of Isaiah as well as in Haggai use the semantic range of the word "glory" in order to span the theological abyss separating the two ways of thinking regarding the Temple. In both, the House is magnificent and full of glory, but not the Glory that was in the Tabernacle.

These two approaches still exist. When the second Temple was inaugurated in the days of the return from the Babylonian exile, there was no mention or hint of the glory of the Lord entering the Temple as expected, and the inaugural ceremony was confined solely to offering sacrifices (Ezra 6:16-18). Thus it follows that the Temple was devoid of the glory of the Lord, as the Sages noted, and was nothing more than a house of sacrifice. The notion that the Lord does not dwell in the Temple goes hand in hand with the view that the Lord is omnipresent, that He can be found and worshipped anywhere. It is this notion that makes possible the existence of the synagogue, the Jewish institution that inherited and took the place of the Temple.

At the same time the original notion of glory changed and developed, becoming part of the rabbinic idea of Shekhinah, Divine Presence that is limited and focused in a specific place. According to the Sages, the western-most light in the candelabrum of the Temple was evidence to all that in the forty years of wandering in the wilderness the Divine Presence was over Israel (Menahot 86b; cf. Megillah 21b; also see Zech. 4:2, 10). In the second Temple, if this western light happened to become extinguished it was relit only by fire taken from the altar, which had originally been lit by the Lord when He revealed His Presence (Lev. 9:24). Thus a memory of the gleaming Glory, His ultimate characteristic, is preserved, if only on a "low flame." The "Shiviti" plaques that are found in prayer books and that hang in synagogues of Sefardic Jewish communities to this day are perhaps a reflection of this notion. These plaques illustrate Psalms 67 by a seven-branched candelabrum with the Tetragrammaton (four letter name) written above it. By properly directing one's prayers and always being mindful of the presence of G-d, one brings into the synagogue or wherever one prays the Glory of the Lord that filled the Tabernacle at the end of this week's reading.

Prepared for Internet Publication by the Center for IT & IS Staff at Bar-Ilan University.

 
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