Pikudei: God and the gaps

And when Moses saw that they had performed all the tasks – that they had done it just as the Lord had commanded – then Moses blessed them. (Shemot 39:43).
Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. (Shemot 40:35)

When God’s effulgent glory
overwhelmed the world,
we could not enter.
His essence then condensed
that we might fill the gaps.

If our bloated sense of glory
inundates the world
and holiness is spurned,
our essence thus inflated
the work is overlooked.

If we fashion of ourselves
an empty vessel, an empty space
to hold God’s light within,
His radiance might shine into the darkness
and grant blessing on the labor of our hands.


In his book Itturei Torah on the above verse, Aharon Ya’akov Greenberg quotes from a Chassidic anthology: “In Vienna they built a synagogue, and on the wall of the entrance was carved in gold letters the verse, “And God’s glory filled the Tabernacle”. Once, when Rabbi Tsvi Hirsch Chajes passed by this synagogue, he saw the inscription on the wall and said, “It would have been better had they engraved the beginning of this verse, “and Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting.”
The Kotsker Rebbe was perhaps addressing this idea when he asked, “Where is God to be found?” and himself offered the response, “In the place where He is given entry.”

The commentators noticed early on the very conspicuous similarity between phrases used in the account of the Creation (Bereishit 1-2) and that of the building of the Mishkan(Shemot 25–40). Nahum Sarna, the modern biblical scholar says, “The account of the construction of the Tabernacle is …laced with phrases and expressions that unmistakably echo the Genesis creation story.”
He also notes that the Tabernacle was constructed on the first day of the first month — the New Year —which he suggests emphasizes its connection as some sort of re-enactment of Creation.
Rabbi Isaac Luria (The “Ari”) teaches that when God initially desired to create the finite world, He had first to contract His infinite light (the Or Ein Sof) in a process known as tsimtsum. In an article on tsimtsum, http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2047206/jewish/Tsimtsum.htm, Rabbi Tzvi Freeman brings the Ari’s kabbalistic depiction in which the pre-Creation state of infinite light excluded the presence of anything else. Before creating any worlds, God withdrew that energy completely, resulting in a total void within the infinite light. Only then, into this darkness, did He shine a measured beam of light from the encompassing infinite light.
So Rabbi Freeman explains, “Tsimtsum, then, is the way God makes space for us to have our own world. He hides His light from us, so that we can make our own choices…”

In a commentary on Pikudei from 2014, http://parshathoughtsmore.blogspot.co.il/2014_02_01_archive.html, Dr Rachel Anisfeld addresses success and what accounts for it – human efforts or divine blessing? She notes that this parasha concludes the work of the building of the Mishkan. She says, “The people have given their all, followed instructions precisely and put in tremendous effort. What happens now? Moshe looks at their work and blesses them. According to Rashi, he says: “May it be His will that the divine Presence dwell in the work of your hands.”
Dr Anisfeld points out that these words are rephrased and immortalised in one of the Psalms attributed to Moses and which is recited on Shabbat mornings: “May the favor of the Lord, our God, be upon us; let the work of our hands prosper, O prosper the work of our hands!” (Psalms 90:17). She notes that the Midrash relates that these words were originally spoken by Moses when the building of the Mishkan was completed. She paraphrases “You have done the work; now let us pray for the blessing of God on your work – O prosper the work of your hands!” She notes that there is a tacit acknowledgement here that we do not have control of outcomes. She says, “We can build the building but the spirit must come from above. And there are times of extreme frustration where the spirit, the blessing, does not come, and our work seems for naught…” Dr Anisfeld cites from the morning Uva Letzion prayer, “…so that we do not toil for nothing and labor in futility.”
Dr Anisfeld ponders how we can live in a world where we risk toiling for nothing, but then, how could we live in a world in which success was entirely in our control? She concludes, “The knowledge that, in addition to human effort, blessing comes from above, is essential . Why was Moshe able to bring down blessing from above? Because of his humility. He had no doubt about his role – he was a keli, a vessel, for divine blessing. That very acknowledgment, the knowledge that blessing comes from above, is actually what draws it down. We can only receive a gift if we are not too full to receive it. A cup full of water cannot receive more water. The knowledge of our limitations opens us to being blessed.”

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