Hizkuni Exodus: Pekudai
Overwhelming Force in Love and War
Military doctrine dictates that overwhelming force provides a distinctive advantage in an armed engagement. But what about in matters of love?
For half of the book of Exodus, the Jewish people are getting directives, planning and constructing the holy Sanctuary. At the very end of the book when the arduous task is finally complete, God, via the physical apparition of a cloud, descends and encompasses the entire sanctuary. God’s presence, if you will, is so overwhelming, that even Moses cannot approach the sanctuary:
“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of meeting, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” Exodus 40:34-35
Rabbi Hizkiyahu ben Manoach (Hizkuni) is troubled by the apparent contradiction between the cloud preventing Moses from approaching the tabernacle and other references of God speaking with Moses in the tabernacle.
Hizkuni explains that the overwhelming presence was none other than a one-time display of extreme love that God has for the children of Israel. The overpowering presence was in honor of the completion of their sacred work as well as for the initiation of the new vehicle that the Jewish people would use to connect with God. God was so excited (if we could attribute emotions to Him) that he needed to show his love in an exaggerated way.
Hizkuni finds a similar phenomenon during the dedication of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.
“And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.” Kings I 8:10-11
At such special events, God demonstrates His special attention and closeness. Thereafter He retreats and diminishes His obvious attention to levels more appropriate for daily interaction.
May we know how and when to demonstrate overwhelming love for those special occasions as well as knowing how to demonstrate love of the daily variety.
To my brand new nephew, Jacob Ari Tocker, named after his great-grandfather Jacob Tocker who passed away last year.