Vayakhel-P’kudei: Meeting the Divine

Each week we invite a different liberal rabbi or Jewish thought leader to write a “Taste of Torah” on the weekly portion. To receive LAASOK’s Taste of Torah by email each week, subscribe to our newsletter.

This week’s author is Alden Solovy.

Alden Solovy is author of These Words: Poetic Midrash on the Language of Torah and three other volumes from CCAR Press. He’s a modern day piytan, a traveling poet/preacher/teacher who uses Torah and verse to engage and inspire.

Mishkan: Meeting the Divine

How can the finite meet the Infinite? Where can humanity meet God? The Torah’s answer: an in-between place, a place where God’s glory can dwell on earth. For the desert wanderers, the place is the Mishkan, the Tabernacle constructed in the wilderness. The root of mishkan—‘dwelling place, habitation, tabernacle’—is shin-kaf-nun, meaning to ‘dwell, abide, nest.’ Mishkan shares the same root as Shechinah, the feminine aspect of God. Tradition says that the feminine aspect of God resides on earth.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayakhel-Pekudei, a team of wise-hearted artisans construct the Mishkan and its furnishings, detailed in the previous Torah readings of Terumah, Tetzaveh, and Ki Tisa.

Troubled by the idea that God wants or needs a physical place to dwell on earth, the Rabbis favor metaphoric interpretations. Saadyah Gaon speaks of three worlds: the terrestrial world, the Mishkan, and the human body. Ibn Ezra takes that a step further, saying that God’s glory fills the universe, Shechinah fills the Mishkan, and our divine souls fill our bodies. God meets us in a sacred place somewhere between heaven and earth.

Malbim wrote, “Each one of us needs to build God a Tabernacle in the recesses of our heart, by preparing ourselves to become a Sanctuary for God and a place for the dwelling of God’s glory.”

God Yearns
God yearns
For an invitation
To dwell among us.
So we create space
For God’s arrival,
Opening our souls,
Opening our lives,
Building sanctuaries
For Torah and t’filah,
So Shechinah can appear
In the tabernacle of our hearts
With Her gifts of tenderness
And love.

We meet God
Somewhere between
A vision of heaven
And the reality of earth,
Yearning for God to stay present,
Yearning for God to dwell among us,
While God yearns
For an invitation
To dwell among us.

© 2023, Central Conference of American Rabbis. Adapted with permission from These Words: Poetic Midrash on the Language of Torah. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed, sold, or copied without express written permission.

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