Thursday, June 19, 2014

Exodus: Chapter 40

When the sum becomes 
 greater  than the parts 

A cloud of completion
A canon of connection

To move together 
rising in response

[For full chapter, click here
We have reached the grand finale of Exodus. 
On the first day of the first month you shall put together the Dwelling.” Exactly one year has passed since that fateful day when God first spoke to the “entire congregation of Israel,”  “This month shall be to you the head of all months, the first of the months of the year.” What a distance has been traversed! From the initial commandment to set aside a private space, marking of the doorways of the home, we have come to create a sacred space, that can allow the Presence of God. The initial glimmerings of a sense of community--“and if the household be too little for a lamb, then shall he and his neighbour (lit. near-dweller shakhen) shall take one according to the number of the souls”—is here transformed into a Dwelling-Mishkan for God, a community with the divine.
These final chapter of building the Dwelling are like a repetitive canon, growing in  intensity. Command, execution, command, and now, finally, activation, the bringing together. After  the completion of the “work” (asiya) of Bezalel and the people begins the work (asiya) of Moses, the integrator who connects the disparate chaotic pieces “as God commanded, so Moses did.” And with the coming together, the whole becomes far greater than the sum of its parts: “And the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of God filled (mila—a return of that pivotal word!) the Dwelling, and Moses was unable to enter the tent, because [the cloud] dwelt (shakhen) on it, and the Glory of God filled the Dwelling (Mishkan).”
With the activation of the Dwelling, the communion with God becomes complete; God and Israel become a single system. “If You will not walk with us, do not take us up (ta-alenu) from here” Moses said. Now God indeed "walks among." The problematic up-down motion of Sinai and the Golden Calf here finally becomes synchronized: God “takes us up”: “And whenever the cloud rose (be-ha-a lot) from the Dwelling, the children of Israel journeyed, throughout all their journeys.” And God is there,  "a pillar of fire... to the sight of all Israel, throughout their journeys"]

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