Parashat Pekudei

Experiencing God In The Dark And The Light

We should strive to feel the presence of God in our lives, just as the presence of God filled the Tabernacle.

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Parashah Overview

  • A statistical summary of the materials used for the Tabernacle and an account of producing the priestly vestments are recorded. Moses blesses the Israelites for the work they did. (38:21-39:42)

  • Upon God's instruction, Moses sets up the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the priests are anointed and consecrated. (40:1-33)

  • A description is given of a cloud that covers the Mishkan by day and a fire that burns by night, indicating God's Presence therein. (40:33-38)

Focal Point

When Moses had finished the work, the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence of Adonai filled the Tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it and the Presence of Adonai filled the Tabernacle. When the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the Israelites would set out on their various journeys; but if the cloud did not lift, they would not set out until such time as it did lift. For over the Tabernacle a cloud of Adonai rested by day, and fire would appear in it by night, in the view of all the House of Israel throughout their journeys (Exodus 40:33-38).

Your Guide

How do you think the Israelites felt seeing the Divine Presence fill the Tabernacle?

Some translations use the word "Glory" or "Majesty" instead of "Presence" for the word kavod. Does this alternative translation change the way you view the passage?

Why couldn't Moses enter the Tent of Meeting? What was really preventing him from entering?

What is the significance of the Presence appearing as a cloud and fire? When have we seen these symbols before in the Book of Exodus?

Why did God have to give the Israelites a sign of when to stay encamped and when to set out on their journey?

By the Way…

"The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence of Adonai filled the Tabernacle." The function of the Tabernacle was to create a portable Sinai, a means by which a continued avenue of communication with God could be maintained. As the people move away from the mount of revelation, they need a visible, tangible symbol of God's ever-abiding Presence in their midst. It is not surprising, then, that the same phenomenon as occurred at Sinai, related in 24:15-17, now repeats itself. It will recur at the dedication of Solomon's Temple, as is narrated in I Kings 8:10-11. The cloud is the manifest token of the immediacy of the Divine Presence (Nahum Sarna on Exodus 40:34 in JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus, p. 237).

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Lisa Lieberman Barzilai is the Regional Educator for the Union for Reform Judaism's Greater New York Council.