Thursday, March 3, 2011

Closed Out

This week we come to the end of the second book of the Torah with the reading of the Parsha of Pekudai. The reading also marks the culmination of the story of the building of the Mishkan, the temporary sanctuary to house the spirit of the Divine, the Israelites built in the wilderness. There is one verse in the reading that struck me as most compelling. After we read of how Moshe, in accord with G-d's command, erected the Mishkan and placed all the objects he fashioned, in accord with the commands of G-d discussed in the earlier week's readings, we are told something startling. The verse reads "And Moshe could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the 'Anan' (Cloud of the Divine) rested upon it and the glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan".

How could that be? How could it be that Moshe, who toiled with such devotion to build the Mishkan and adhered to the will of G-d so precisely, could be closed out from entry on the day the Mishkan was first erected. This is the Moshe who had privileges to enter the Holy of Holies, where even the High Priest could not go but once a year, any time he desired. This is the Moshe who visited G-d on Mt Sinai and dwelt with the angels. Yet he was locked out on the day the Mishkan was first born.

Moreover everything Moshe made was within, there to welcome the presence of G-d into His home on earth, from the alters to the menorah, from the golden vessels to the sink, yet Moshe who created them was outside and could not enter.

And its not the only time Moshe was left outside while that which he forged was privileged to enter. Do we not find the story replayed when Moshe at the end of his life is, to his great dismay, unable to enter the land of Israel, the Promised Land, while the People he made into a nation are charged to cross-over the Jordan and inherit the land. How can it be that the People he molded could go where he could not?

I thought about this as this week my daughter, Bat Sheva, became an 'olah', a full fledged citizen of Israel. I grew up a strong Zionist, the child of strong Zionists. My father was president of Poal Hamizrachi of New York in the late 40's just as the State was coming into existence. He travelled to Israel in 1947 and tried to set-up a family business here that unfortunately did not take root.
While forever dreaming of making aliya, life circumstances prevented the realization of his dream. I too, all my life dreamed of living in Israel, fulfilling the great mitzvah of Yishuv Ha'aretz, settling the land. Now, for me too, because of circumstances, becoming an 'oleh' is not feasible. Yet where neither my father nor I could go, and where we remain closed out, she who we fashioned, our daughter and granddaughter, is privileged to enter.

And herein lies the great truth.
Sometimes the ones who pave the way never make it to the Promised Land. Yet their energy and guidance give what they bring to life the power to enter.

And truth be told its not the only case in my life where this rings true. I spent many years learning in yeshiva. Yet as much as I loved learning, I did not have the temperament to sit in the bais medrash (study hall) and devote my life to Talmud study. My restlessness caused me to have to leave the world of Torah and invest in other worthy Jewish activities. But I always felt that, willy nilly, I was closed out, even if due to my own temperament, from a life I would have relished. Yet, thanks to G-d, while my journey took me away from intense Torah study, I have two grown sons, who have rooted themselves in the bais medrash, one a rebbe in a prominent yeshiva and the other in an excellent kollel. They have entered and made a home in a place I could not settle. Yet here too, I sense that the love of Torah that inhered in me was passed on and it made their life in that world possible.

I suspect that each of us can find places where we know the experience of Moshe, places where, while we were closed out, our children or our students, or someone we loved or influenced, was privileged to enter. We may have mourned that we did not merit to enter that place that was so important to us. Yet, on reflection, we can, like Moshe, derive joy in knowing that that which is within, that which is basking in the special gift of that environ, is there, at least in part, because of our influence and investment.
And in that we can derive both nachas and a sense of fulfillment.

Shabbat Shalom

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