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I shall rest My Presence among the Israelites, and I will be their G-d. They shall know that it is I… Who took them out of the land of Egypt… I am the Lord their G-d (29:45-6).
These words climax the instructions G-d gave to Moses for the making of the Priestly garments, and the inauguration and daily offerings in the Tabernacle. However, they seem rather cold and distant when compared to similar promises elsewhere:
(a) When G-d describes the Divine rewards for keeping the Commandments, He states: 'I (G-d) shall walk in your midst and be to you as G-d, and you shall be to Me as a People'. (Lev. 26:12). 'To you' - much closer: not as here - 'to them' - more impersonal and remote.
(b) The Tzitzit are worn 'so that you shall remember and perform all my commandments.' I am the Lord your G-d who brought you out of Egypt… I am the Lord your G-d (Num. 15:40-41). Again, 'you' 'your' - not 'them' their'.
The Ohr Hachayim offers a clue:
'Perhaps [these words] cover a situation where He remains our G-d even when His Presence is not among us'.
Thus G-d is always with His People even if He 'hides His face' (Deut. 31:18). He remains our King, but a king is not personal - he is a monarch, a ruler, an entity who has the power of life and death over his subjects. And G-d remains King even when His People conduct themselves in ways where they would much prefer He is not looking too closely - Tabernacle / Temple or no Tabernacle / Temple. And, following the implications of the Ohr Hachayim, G-d remains with His People even when they have forfeited the privilege of His closeness through the Tabernacle, and later on, the Temple.
But when He is thus estranged from his People, G-d's relationship with them is still there, but more distant and impersonal - to the extent of appearing not to relate to their suffering. Nevertheless, He is still in the background 'watching through the windows, peering through the cracks' (Song of Songs 2:9). He sees you, you don't see Him. So He is 'their G-d' not 'our G-d'. He is our King, but not close enough to be our Father.
But when the Israelites move forward towards Him by observing His commandments (Lev. 26:2) - even when it is extremely difficult (as: You must not stray after your hearts and after your eyes' - Num. 15:39), they come closer to G-d. Therefore G-d is not 'their G-d' but 'your G-d'. He is not only our King, but our Father as well. As Torah states elsewhere: 'You are G-d's children' (Deut. 14:1).
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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