The Purple Sheet
Shabbat Parshat Pekudei- March 11th/12th – ב’ אדר ב תשע’ו
Follow Your Cloud
This week’s Torah portion is the final installment of the book of Exodus/Shmot. In it, we have the narration of the set up of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle that was the meeting place between God and the Israelites in the desert. And now that the Tabernacle structure is up, the final paragraph of the parsha and Exodus tells us a little about what occurred there.
And the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the Mishkan. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud rested upon it and the glory of the Lord filled the Mishkan. When the cloud rose up from over the Mishkan (then) the children of Israel would embark on their journeys. But if the cloud did not rise up, then they would not travel until the day that it (the cloud) rose up. For the cloud of the Lord was upon the Mishkan by day, and there was fire within it at night, within eyesight of the entire house of Israel in all of their journeys.
We don’t get many details here, just some generic description of the cloud hovering over the Mishkan, God’s presence filling it and that this cloud was an indicator as to when the Israelites were to move or when they were to remain stationary.
But perhaps this simple description can teach us an important lesson nevertheless. For it is basically saying that when God was present to the Jewish people, as indicated by the cloud floating over the Mishkan, then they did not need to go anywhere. But once it left, that is when they had to move onward. And maybe the simple message is that when God is in your midst, when He is in your life, you don’t really need to go anywhere. If His presence is there, then leave well enough alone and just stay put exactly where you are. As they say, if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it.
On the other hand, when that cloud leaves indicating that God has left, then you need to move on. When you are in a place where you see and feel that there isn’t spirituality, you need to get out of there and find and follow that cloud to the place where God is. If you are in a time and place in life where things feels empty and your soul in not getting its due, then you need to actively do something and move on to a space where your spiritual side gets its nourishment.
A good example of this dynamic occurs during the course of a week. On Shabbat the laws make it difficult to travel because you really don’t need to go anywhere to feel God’s presence. The day itself is holy and the Shechinah Divine Presence is ever-present. You need not seek it out since on Shabbat it finds you. The Cloud is stationary.
But during the rest of the week, you have to keep an eye on the Mishkan, your personal Tabernacle. Is there God there? Is there a cloud as a sign that God is in your life? If not, you gotta get up and go and find it. You have to actively do things during the course of your week-days to ensure there is a Godly cloud over and included in your activities. And if there isn’t, you better move on and do something to locate it.
The Talmud has a nice piece of advice for those who find themselves in a bit of a funk.שינוי מקום שינוי מזל – shinui makom, shinui Mazal which means “change your place, change you Mazal”. When you change your physical space, you end up changing your luck, fortune, destiny and connection to God.
It is no accident that when people get depressed, they are physically stagnant, tired and sluggish. Inertia is the opposite of spirituality. Often the solution to finding spirituality and meaning in life isn’t necessarily to stop and contemplate but to just get a move on.
So if you are finding yourself spiritually stuck, take the lesson from the finale of the Book of Exodus and look for your cloud and God elsewhere and make the effort to go find and follow it.
I live in an apartment on the ninety-ninth floor of my block
And I sit at home looking out the window
Imagining the world has stopped
Then in flies a guy who’s all dressed up just like a Union Jack
And says, I’ve won five pounds if I have his kind of detergent pack
I said, Hey!(Hey!) You! (You!) Get off of my cloud
Hey! (Hey!) You! (You!) Get off of my cloud
Rabbi Tzvi Nightingale
Aish South Florida www.aishfl.com