“Aaron and all the Israelites saw that the skin of Moses’ face was radiant;
and they shrank from coming near him.” (Exodus 34:30)
Parashat Ki Tisa covers a lot of territory: the Israelites lose faith during Moses’ long absence up on Mt. Sinai and worship the Golden Calf. God decides to annihilate them and start over, but Moses persuades God to give them another chance. Then Moses asks to behold God’s presence (Ex. 33:18). God responds with what may be the three most consequential words in the Torah.
God first explains to Moses he cannot survive the intensity of a direct face-to-face encounter (Ex. 33:20). But then God says, “… Hinei makom iti, there is a place near me…” and directs Moses to hide in a cleft in the rock and observe God from the back (Ex. 33:21-23). Rabbi David Ingber, (Founder and Senior Rabbi at Romemu, NYC) notes iti can also mean with me or in me; hinei makom iti is God’s invitation to Moses to enter the Divine. It is a remarkable moment of radical, cosmic hospitality: an omnipotent God makes space for humanity.
God sends Abraham out to be a blessing (Gen. 12:2) and God blesses Moses by inviting him in. God commands the Israelites to build the mishkan, or Tabernacle, so God may, “…dwell among them.” (Ex. 25:8) and reciprocates by becoming a sanctuary for Moses to inhabit (even if for just a moment). The transcendent God of the revelation at Sinai is followed by an immanent God craving intimate relationship. God’s laws and structures certainly matter, but the key to the brit, or covenant, is a mutual and abiding commitment to presence. The Golden Calf may get the headline, but hinei makom iti is the real story.
Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom