Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah# 23: P’kudei (Accounts) Sh’mot (Exodus) 38:21-40:38
Haftarah: M’lakhim Alef (1 Kings) 7:40- 50
B’rit Chadashah: Revelation 15:5-8
Excerpts from this message are taken from a message written by the late Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks of blessed memory. All Messianic Jewish connections I provided are integral to understanding the similarities and differences in Orthodox and Messianic thought. This teaching provides another illustration of the inextricable connection between the letter and spirit of G-d’s Law.
As a medical healthcare provider, I spend a significant part of my time with patients instructing them on the importance of moving. I’m not talking about grandiose movements, triathlon participation or mountain climbing. Any movement for a total of 20-30 minutes most days of the week a day is beneficial to our health. Otherwise, we will definitely realize negative changes in our health in some way. The World Health Organization identified physical inactivity as the fourth greatest health hazard today, ahead of obesity. In the words of Dr. James Levine, one of the world’s leading experts on the subject and the man credited with coining the mantra, says, “We are sitting ourselves to death.” All we need do to validate these statements is look at the rising health costs related to obesity. Better yet, look at what G-d’s Torah has to say about the lifestyle of His people. In our parashah this week, let’s take a look at Chapter 40 Verse s 36-38: “Whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel continued with all their travels. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not travel onward until the day when it was taken up. For the cloud of Adonai was above the tabernacle during the day, and fire was in [the cloud] at night, so that all the house of Israel could see it throughout all their travels.”
Humans were not designed to sit for prolonged periods of time, neither physically nor spiritually. Our bodies were made for movement, standing, walking, running, climbing, and even jumping. Our brains were made to process new information throughout our lives. If we fail to give the body including the brain regular exercise, they can easily malfunction and put us at risk of serious illness. For example, exercise such as walking that places stress on the long bones of the legs helps prevent osteoporosis. Regular movement promotes a regular bowel routine and prevents muscle wasting, also called atrophy. Interestingly, just as G-d’s Law and Grace cannot be treated in exclusion, neither can physical needs be separated from the spiritual. Emotions affect the body and vice versa. The Torah of G-d is replete with narratives describing human emotions and their effects on spirituality and relationships to Him.
It is fascinating to look at the sequence of verbs in the very first verse of the book of Psalms: “Happy is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of the scornful” (Ps. 1:1). That is a picture of the bad life, lived in pursuit of the wrong values. Note how the bad man begins by walking, then stands, then sits. A bad life immobilizes. That is the point of the famous verses in Hallel:
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but do not speak, eyes but do not see, ears but do not hear, noses but do not smell. They have hands but cannot feel, feet but cannot walk, nor can they make a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them; so will all who trust in them. (Ps. 115:4-8). Simply put, if we choose to live for things rather than for G-d, we will become as dead people. There will be no life within us.
The life of those who would and will follow G-d, starting with Abraham, began with momentous journeys. Abraham’s from Mesopotamia, Moses and the Israelites from Egypt. “Walk on ahead of Me and be blameless,” said God to Abraham (Gen. 17:1). At the age of ninety-nine, having just been circumcised, Abraham saw three strangers passing by and “ran to meet them.” On the verse, “Jacob dwelled [vayeshev, the verb that also means “to sit”] in the land where his father had stayed,” Rashi, citing the sages, commented: “Jacob sought to live in tranquility, but immediately there broke in on him the troubles of Joseph.” The righteous do not sit still. They do not have a quiet life.
Rarely is the point made with more subtlety than at the end of this week’s parshah and the book of Exodus. The Tabernacle had been made and assembled. The closing verses tell us about the relationship between it and the “cloud of glory” that filled the Tent of Meeting. The Tabernacle was made to be portable. It could be dismantled and its parts carried as the Israelites travelled on the next stage of their journey. When the time came for them to move on, the cloud moved from the Tent of Meeting to a position outside the camp, signaling the direction the Israelites were to take. This is how the Torah describes it:
When the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, the Israelites went onward in all their journeys, but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel in all their journeys. (Ex.40:36-38)
There is a significant difference between the two occurrences of the phrase “in all their journeys.” In the first, the words are meant literally. When the cloud lifted, the Israelites knew they were about to begin a new stage of their journey. However in the second instance, they cannot be meant literally. The cloud was not “over the Tabernacle” in all their journeys. To the contrary, it was there only when they stopped journeying and instead pitched camp. During the journeys the cloud went on ahead.
Rashi notes this and makes the following comment:
A place where they encamped is also called massa, “a journey” … because from the place of encampment they always set out again on a new journey, therefore they are all called “journeys.”
The point is linguistic, but the message is remarkable. In a few brief words, Rashi has summarized an existential truth about Jewish identity. To be a true believer; a true Israelite, means to be a traveler. Our spiritual journey is just that; a journey to a destination; the Land. We are given places to rest, oases of sorts, to rest and reflect until we are called to move forward on the King’s highway, looking neither to the right nor to the left. We are instructed by G-d as we are tested, another active verb until we reach a higher place in our relationship to G-d. Then follows another oasis; a time of rest and recovery; then back down into the valley where we use what we learned for the glory of G-d according to our purpose. Even a place of rest, an encampment, is still called a journey. The patriarchs lived, not in houses but in tents. The first time we are told that a patriarch built a house, proves the point:
Jacob traveled to Sukkot. There he built himself a house and made shelters [sukkot] for his livestock. That is why he called the place Sukkot. Gen. 33:17)
The verse is astonishing. Jacob has just become the first member of the covenantal family to build a house, yet he does not call the place “House” (as in Bet-El or Bet-lechem). He calls it “cattle-sheds.” It is as if Jacob, consciously or unconsciously, already knew that to live the life of the covenant means to be ready to move on, to travel, to journey, to grow. Just as G-d commanded that the Ark have poles in it that were not to be removed (Ex. 25:14-15), and just as he commanded that the Ark was to be carried on the shoulders of designated men, we are to always be ready to go wherever G-d directs and carry the mantle of His Torah on our shoulders and in our hearts/minds (lev).
One might have thought that all this applied only to the time before the Israelites crossed the Jordan and entered the Promised Land. Yet the Torah tells us otherwise:
The land shall not be sold in perpetuity because the land is Mine: you are strangers and temporary residents as far as I am concerned. (Lev. 25:23)
If we live as if the land is permanently ours, our stay there will be temporary. If we live as if it is only temporarily so, we will live there permanently. In this world of time and change, growth and decay, only G-d and His Torah are permanent. To be a true believer is to stay spiritually aware, sensitive to the Ruach, ready to begin the next stage of the journey, literally or metaphorically. A familiar cliché is that a man’s home is his castle. But for the true believer, the home is a tent, booth; a tabernacle. We know that life on earth is a spiritual training ground and that our homes are temporary. They are not the focus of our lives. Learning the importance of our time on earth as it relates to our spiritual development, we value each moment and welcome opportunities to ascend in our relationship to G-d. We thank G-d for each new day and another chance to repent when we fall short and another chance to glorify Him with our thoughts, speech, and deeds.
Just as our bodies were created for movement, our souls were not made for sitting still. We were made for moving, walking, traveling, learning, searching, striving, growing, and knowing that it is not for us to complete the work, but neither may we stand aside from it. Remember those who ask will be given, those who seek will find, and to those who knock the door will be opened. These are all action verbs. (Matt. 7:7).We must keep the Great Commission in mind as Yahshua commanded the talmidim: First Yahshua commanded the talmidim to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel in Matthew 10:6: “Don’t go into the territory of the Goyim, and don’t enter any town in Shomron, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Later, provision for salvation was provided for the Goyim in Matthew 28:19 “ Therefore, go and make people from all nations into talmidim, immersing them into the reality of the Name, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” For true believers, the book of Exodus reminds us that we are born to move; physically and spiritually; always seeking, asking, and knocking; moving (Luke 11:9-13); traveling through on our wilderness journeys until we too reach the Land; our final destination .
Haftarah: 1 Kings 7:40-50
The completion of the tabernacle in the wilderness is compared to the completion of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. The narrative is filled with references to the past because this is how G-d teaches us to live in the present and prepare for the future. This is one reason that passing on information of Pesach is so important and in-depth study of the prophets. We must tell our children and others how G-d led our people out of Egypt with a strong hand and providing for us then as He does now and will in the future. Solomon begins by bringing into the Temple the treasury and wealth that Avid accumulated for its construction and maintenance. Interestingly, there were two huge, extravagantly decorated pillars at the entrance to the Temple, named Yachin and Boaz. The one at the right, Yahchin, was on the side of the menorah; thus its name, which denotes a firm foundation, proclaims that the basis or purpose of Jewish life is found in drawing our light from The Light, the Shamash candle (Yahshua), the glow of the Torah, which is symbolized by the Menorah. The one on the left, Boaz, was on the side of the Table of Shewbread. Its name means “In Him is strength, ” and proclaims that the strength of prosperity, which is symbolized by the Table, emanates from Him, G-d alone holds sustenance in His hand. The Middle Pillar is not described here. The Zohar tells us that the “Son of yah” is a figure called ‘Metatron” and the “Middle Pillar of the G-dhead.” Christianity assigns the middle pillar to Yahshua within the doctrine of the Trinity although this doctrine is not in the Bible. We refer to the G-dhead as the “Complex Unity” (Echad); inseparable; manifesting His roles according to His purpose.
The Middle Pillar of the G-dhead is Metatron, Who has accomplished peace above, according to the glorious state there (Zohar, Vol.3, Ra’aya Mehaimna; p. 115, Amsterdam Edition).
B’rit Chadashah: Revelation 15:5-8
This passage reflects the antitype of the tent of meeting in our parashah with the tent of Witness that is opened to reveal the seven angels with the seven plagues. The fury of G-d is handed to the angels in seven gold bowls. Then the sanctuary becomes filled with smoke from G-d’s glory, from His power; and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels had accomplished their purpose. Similarly in our parashah, Moshe was not allowed to enter the sanctuary when the glory of G-d filled the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34). YHVH/Yahshua validates His Word and consistency throughout His Torah using many different writing techniques. In this case, it is accomplished by describing and emphasizing His laws, commands, and statutes in both the Old Testament and the B’rit Chadashah (“New” testament). Anyone who reads the entire Torah of G-d and begins to understand connections between the Old and “New” Testaments, soon realizes that G-d is consistent in all things, including His commands. There is an inextricable connection between the Testaments as there is between G-d’s Law and Grace. May we learn these truths, internalize, and act upon them more consistently as we continue our travels toward the Land; our Home.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart