“I shall set my meeting there with the children of Israel
and it shall be sanctified with my glory.” (Exodus 29:43)
Parashat T’tzaveh concludes the instructions for building the mishkan (Tabernacle), with particular attention to the ner tamid (eternal light). It also describes in detail the priests’ clothes and describes the ceremony to consecrate Aaron and his sons as priests.
The parasha (portion) ends with a surprising admission: “They shall know I am God, who took them out of the land of Egypt to abide among them.” (Ex. 29:46) God doesn’t instruct the Israelites (which really means us, the Jewish people) to build the mishkan to have a place for worship. The mishkan is built so God can move into the Israelites’ neighborhood. God wants to be part of a community.
The idea that God has needs is more than surprising and intrigues Jewish commentators throughout history. Ibn Ezra (1089-~1164; a great medieval Spanish scholar) writes God’s entire purpose in bringing the Jews out of Egypt is to be close to them. Nachmanides (1194 – 1270; a 13th century Spanish commentator) call this a great secret in the Torah: God’s closeness is more about God’s needs than our needs. The Kabbalists of Tz’fat (16th century mystics) posit God experiences what we experience. More recently, Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907–1972; one of the leading Jewish theologians and philosophers of the 20th century) writes God is always searching for human partnership.
It is easy to dismiss these interpretations as mere anthropomorphisms and simply examples of “creating God in humanity’s image.” Yet, there is something both compelling and comforting in a God that is lonely for human company. Since the construction of the mishkan is a human endeavor, T’tzaveh tells us it is up to us to determine God’s place in our lives.
Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom