Ki Tissa: The Chamber

The King cannot bear the distance
as His cherished children drift away.
He gave us sacred places
to seek Him; to come close.
But in our hearts,
that inner chamber still exists:
we only need recall the word; to
free the latch and let Him in.


The Sefat Emet cites Rashi, according to whom the commandments relating to the Tabernacle were only given after the sin of the Golden Calf. He takes this as evidence that the first tablets were intended to be right there in Israel’s midst, with no intervening ark or tabernacle. The Sefat Emet retells the parable of the king whose daughter weds a prince and prepares to depart. The king cannot keep the young couple from leaving, but cannot envisage life without his daughter. So he says to the two of them, “Wherever you go, make a little chamber for me and I will dwell with you.” The Sefat Emet says that had they not sinned, the people would not have been separated from God. The tabernacle was intended to bring them close again. In his book, The Language of Truth,* Rabbi Arthur Green suggests that religion is only necessary because we have become remote from God. While we have used the Mishkan, Beit HaMikdash and synagogues to enable us to get closer, he says, “…all of us bear in our hearts the memory of a moment when the word was right there, inscribed clearly within us, readable in our own hearts. Then we had no need for such “means” of access to the holy at all.”

* The Torah Commentary of the Sefat Emet, translated and interpreted by Rabbi Arthur Green.

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