The Cloud of God’s Presence: Vayak’heil – P’kudei
By Cantor Lauren Adesnik
The Tabernacle is FINALLY finished. The instructions and construction of this sacred dwelling place for God comprised most of the book of Exodus. After the Tabernacle, Moses anoints and installs Aaron and his sons as the High Priests of the congregation. (Yes- this is where we get our liturgy and tradition of formally installing our clergy and sacred leadership of modern synagogues!) Finally, God descends into the Tabernacle as a cloud.
We learn that when the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the Israelites would set out on their journeys. If the cloud did not lift, they would not set out. For over the Tabernacle, a cloud of Adonai rested by day, and fire would appear in it by night before the eyes of all the House of Israel throughout their journeys.
This is a beautiful image of God as protector and guide for the Jewish people. It also elevates the concept of discernment. Discernment is the practice of deep listening beneath the surface of our initial thoughts and emotions. This profound exploration of ourselves and others within the various situations we find ourselves in allows us to choose the path that serves our highest good.
The Israelites understood that if the cloud did not lift, it was not time for them to continue on their journey. Today we have to do more spiritual work than our early counterparts, but the result is the same. When we invite something bigger than ourselves into consideration, our path is true and serves our highest purpose for ourselves and the world.