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The final words of Parashat Pekudei conclude the work of constructing the Tabernacle. G-d's presence in the very intense form enters the holiest part of it:
The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting (within the Tabernacle). The glory of G-d filled the Tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud rested on itů and the glory of G-d filled Tabernacle (34:34-35).
Which a few verses later, is followed by:
G-d called to Moses. He spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting (Lev. 1:1).
G-d appeared to Moses for the first time when he was taking shelter with Jethro in Midian, on the run from Pharaoh. G-d appeared to him in the 'bush that was burning, but not consumed' (3:2). He instructed Moses to go to Pharaoh and plead with him to release the Israelites from slavery. In his reply to G-d, Moses included a question: when the suffering Israelites in Israel ask: 'What is His name?' (3:13), how should he respond? G-d replied that Moses should reply with the words: G-d is 'ehyeh asher ehyeh' (3:14).
There appear to be two ways of translating 'ehyeh asher ehyeh'.
One is in the future tense. G-d says: 'I will be what I will be'. Rashi explains that to mean that 'as I am with the Israelites in their troubles now, so I will be with them in all their troubles in the future'.
The other is in the present tense: 'I am that I am', which could be paraphrased as: 'I am, therefore I am'. For the future tense in Hebrew can cover the imperfect tense which means a continuation of the present: 'as I am now, so I am continuing to be'.
It might be argued that both translations are correct and that the expression of 'ehyeh asher ehyeh' covers the two translations simultaneously - as elaborated below.
The Israelites fell from G-d's favor after the sin of the golden calf. After Moses pled for G-d to continue to lead them and restore His presence, G-d said to Moses: 'I will favor those I will favor, and show mercy to those I show mercy' (33:19).
G-d did not say who would be those favored or be shown mercy. He spoke in the future. It seems that G-d meant that when things will happen in the future, you will see Me as having directed it all. You will understand only then my 'favoring those I show favor and having mercy on those I have mercy'. Thus 'ehyeh asher ehyeh' is in the future tense: 'I will be what I will be'. That is G-d's identity as far as humanity is concerned - when He is further away from them.
But when G-d is close to the people - as He was when they had put their wealth and greatest efforts in building a Tabernacle to the precise details He instructed, He appears in the present tense: 'I am that I am'. This is the climax of the parasha - the series of events involved in the building of the Tabernacle removed the clarity of G-d's presence from the future tense to the present tense.
For as the people move to G-d, G-d comes to the people. And He was easily perceived and seen to be with them - exemplified by: 'The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting (within the Tabernacle). The glory of G-d filled the Tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud rested on itů and the glory of G-d filled Tabernacle'. And that was peaked with 'G-d called to Moses. He spoke to himů'
G-d was in the present tense.
And this transition within 'ehyeh asher ehyeh' - from the future tense to the present tense - is reflected in the following prayer in the Additional service for the Festivals:
'Our father, our king! Reveal the glory of your rule over us. Appear and be recognized as king over all people'.
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
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.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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