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Parsha Ponderings – Shemini – Where Does God Rest? Wherever There’s Zest!

ויקחו את אשר צוה משה אל פני אוהל מועד ויקרבו כל העדה ויעמדו לפני ה’ ויאמר משה זה הדבר אשר ציוה ה’ תעשו וירא אליכם כבוד ה

And they took that which Moshe had commanded them [i.e. the sacrificial animals] to the front of the Tent of Meeting, and the entire nation drew near, and stood before God. And Moshe said: This is the thing that God has commanded you to do, and the glory of God shall [then] appear to you.

After seven dry-run days of erecting and dismantling the Tabernacle without God’s glory making an appearance, the long-awaited day had finally come. Moshe was to erect the Mishkan, sacrifices were to be brought, and the Divine Presence was to descend and take up permanent residence in the Tabernacle. First, however, Moshe commands Aharon, the High Priest, and the Israelites, to assemble the animals necessary for their respective sacrifices. Having done that, the Israelites assemble at the entrance of the Tabernacle, at which point Moshe tells them as follows: “This is the thing that God has commanded you to do, and the glory of God shall [then] appear to you.” Strangely, however, no commandment, or “thing”, as it were, is forthcoming.

What, wonder the commentators, is this unarticulated “thing that God has commanded” which will cause the glory of God to appear to the Israelites?

Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg (author of Sridei Eish), suggests the following novel approach toward resolving this difficulty.

After months of preparation and seven days of dry-runs, the Israelites’ excitement and anticipation had reached a virtual crescendo. As the final prerequisites were finally taken care of, they gathered at the entrance of the Tabernacle, waiting with bated breath for God to make His appearance.

At precisely that exhilarating moment, Moshe chose to impart a timeless lesson to the electrified crowd. “This“, said Moshe, “is what God has commanded you to do, to bring His presence upon yourselves. It is not the gold or the silver, the Ark or the Candelabra, the Altar or the sacrifices, which ultimately bring on the Godly Presence; it is the excitement and anticipation of the Jew longing for a glimpse of his God!”

What a lesson! It is precisely when a Jew is surrounded by external circumstances which seem to engender Divine energy, be it a Tabernacle or a Shabbos, that he must remember how the true source of power lies within. Were a Jew to somehow replicate that feeling of excitement the Israelites felt on the day the Divine Presence descended on the Tabernacle, that very Divine Presence would descend upon him, regardless of his location or circumstance.

Excitedly await, and the Godliness will be great. Don’t be very eager, and the Godliness will be meager.

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