Lecture No. E_010
The Seal of the Book of Exodus:
God’s Transcendent Light
The Weekly Torah Portion of: Vayakhel – Pekudai
The Purpose of the Tabernacle
Much of the book of Exodus relates to the details of the construction of the Tabernacle in the desert. When Moses actually constructs all the components to create the complete Tabernacle exactly according to God’s instructions, God’s glory descends to cover and fill the Tabernacle. This is the purpose of the Tabernacle–to manifest God’s glory on earth. (The three letter root of the Hebrew word for “Tabernacle,” mishkan is: shin, chaf, nun. This means “dwelling,” reflecting the concept of a dwelling place for God on earth.) How befitting that the Torah portion that seals the book of Exodus culminates with God’s “seal of approval,” that all was assembled exactly according to His will.
Cloud, Fire and Glory
In the final verse of Exodus we learn that “The cloud of God was over the Tabernacle by day, and fire by night in it ….” While the cloud covered and surrounded the Tabernacle by day, the fire by night was actually in the Tabernacle. (The cloud and fire of the stationary Tabernacle transformed to the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire when Israel traveled in the desert.) Our Torah portion also relates that when God’s glory descended and filled the Tabernacle, even Moses could not enter. In order to understand what was the essence of God’s glory that prevented even Moses from entering the Tabernacle, our meditation must include four elements:
- The cloud
- The fire
- God’s glory
- The Tabernacle
God’s Transcendent and Immanent Light
In Kabbalah we learn of two types of manifestations of Godliness: God’s transcendent light and God’s immanent light.
God’s transcendent light is the infinite light of God that surrounds all worlds. This transcendent experience of the manifestation of Godliness is not perceived by our senses, but is rather apprehended by the super-rational faith of the soul.
God’s immanent light is the light of God that fills reality. This light fills the consciousness of each world and the soul of each person in direct correlation with his ability to contain it within his consciousness.
What is the Glory that Filled the Tabernacle?
The glory of God that filled the Tabernacle is not a manifestation of God’s immanent light. While the glory made it impossible for Moses to enter the Tabernacle, God’s immanent light would have allowed Moses to enter and experience God to the maximum that his soul would be capable of receiving.
The filling of the Tabernacle with God’s glory is cognate to the filling described in Jeremiah 23:24 where God says: “I fill all heavens and earth.” Here the verse does not mean that God is filling “in it,” but rather, that His essence is full of it and fills it all. This a different type of filling all together—the filling of reality with God’s essence. It is not the filling of the immanent light but actually a revelation of the true infinity of God’s transcendent and surrounding light.
In the Tabernacle as well, God’s glory is the transcendent light of God’s true infinity, revealing itself to be all-inclusive and omnipresent. This is the ultimate purpose of the Tabernacle–the revelation of God’s transcendent light as His glory filling the Tabernacle. Therefore, even Moses can not enter into the Tabernacle so long as the Glory of God is filling it.
Four Levels of Transcendent Light Manifest in Tabernacle
The four fold image of God’s transcendent light descending and manifesting in the Tabernacle correspond to the four letters of God’s Name.
|Letter of God’s Name||Manifestation||Image||Location||Experience||Moses Entrance to Tabernacle|
Origin of manifestation of transcendent light
|Over and surrounding Tabernacle||Conceals God’s Glory as a womb conceals fetus||Possible|
Origin of manifestation of transcendent light
|Somewhat within Tabernacle||Beginning of descent of God’s Glory into Tabernacle||Possible|
Two stages of descent of God’s Glory as corresponding to the two Torah verses depicting descent.
stage 1: tiferet
|“Birth” of God’s transcendent light into Tabernacle, shining and revealing full brilliance of the first two letters of God’s Name.||Impossible|
The Messianic Manifestation
In Zecharia 14:9 it is written “On that day God will be One and His Name will be One.” This is the difference between “This World” and the “World to Come.” In This World, the experience of the letter vav of God’s Name is only a small iota of the essence of the revelation of the first two letters of God’s Name. However, when Mashiach comes, as Zecharia prophesizes, God’s Name will be One–the brilliance of the letter vav of God’s Name will be identical to the first yud of God’s Name.
This is the Messianic experience of God’s Glory filling the Tabernacle–the full revelation of God in His infinite transcendence.