Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVI, p. 475ff.

I. After the Torah describes the erection of the Sanctuary in detail,1 it relates that the Divine Presence rested upon the Sanctuary, as it is written:2 “And the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of G‑d filled the Sanctuary.” That revelation was so powerful that “Moshe could not enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud rested upon it and the glory of G‑d filled the Sanctuary.”3 The Torah then contin­ues:4 “When the cloud ascended from the Sanctuary, the children of Israel would journey forth on all their travels. And if the cloud did not ascend, they would not journey forth until it did ascend.”

These verses present a difficulty: On the surface, the concluding verses which speak about the journeys of the Jewish people in the desert belong — where they are indeed repeated (and elaborated upon) — in Parshas Behaalos’cha.5 What is the connection between the pattern of the Jews’ journeys (— that “when the cloud... [they] would journey forth.... And if the cloud did not ascend, they would not journey forth...” —) with the content of our Torah reading which speaks of the Divine Presence resting in the Sanctu­ary?

The Seforno6 [attempts to resolve this question], explaining that the fact that the Jews would journey forth when the cloud ascended demonstrated the permanence with which the Divine Presence rested within the Sanctu­ary. “For it would not withdraw at all until the Jewish people had to journey forth.”

On the surface, however, this explanation does not resolve the issue. For the wording of the verse appears to indicate that its intent is to relate the pattern of the Jewish people’s journeys. As the Midrash7 states: “This is the description of the journeys.” And thus, the question remains: What is the connection between the “description of the journeys” which are detailed at length in Parshas Behaalos’cha with the story of the erection of the Sanctuary and the manifestation of G‑d’s Presence within it?

This question is reinforced by our Sages’ statements8 that note the connection between the beginning of Parshas Vayikra, 9 “And He called to Moshe,” and its preceding verse (“When the cloud ascended...) Moshe could not enter the Tent of Meeting.” [Our Sages explain: because “Moshe could not enter,”] G‑d “called to Moshe” and made it possi­ble for him to go into the Tent of Meeting.

Thus it appears that between the verses that follow in sequence — “Moshe could not enter...” and “And He called to Moshe” — the Torah interrupts the conceptual flow and mentions a peripheral matter — the description of the jour­neys which is seemingly unrelated to the Sanctuary.

II. All concepts in the Torah are precise. Since the Midrash explains that “And He called to Moshe” (the beginning of the Book of Vayikra) comes in sequence to the conclusion of Parshas Pekudei, “Moshe could not enter,” there is a thematic connection shared by the Torah readings in which these verses are included.

The Book of Vayikra, the Book of the Sacrifices,10 follows not only the narrative of the construction and the erection of the Sanctuary (the place where the sacrifices are offered), but also the particular description of the manner in which G‑d’s Presence rested in the Sanctuary. This is the theme of Parshas Pekudei, and particularly, of the concluding passages.

It is possible to explain that this is the reason why after the Torah states: “And Moshe could not enter...,” it makes an interruption and mentions the journeys of the Jewish people which are associated with “the cloud ascend[ing] from the Sanctuary,” i.e., the withdrawal of G‑d’s Presence. The spiritual import of the sacrifices is associated with the concept that for the Jews to journey forth [from their encampments] G‑d’s Presence had to ascend from the Sanctuary. (As will be explained in section VIII,) [this factor is] more [significant] than the actual indwelling of G‑d’s Presence in that structure.

III. The above matters can be resolved by prefacing [another concept]: the connection between the conclusion of the Book of Shmos with its beginning (following the principle:11 “The end is rooted in the beginning, and the beginning in the end”). This is reflected by the fact that the names of both the first and the last parshiyos of the book are related to the concept of counting.

[The name of the first parshah,] Shmos, [is related to counting,] as Rashi states: “Although [the Torah] counted them [previously]... it counts them again... to show their dearness, that they are compared to stars.” And Pekudei, [which means “reckoning,” certainly relates to that concept, for it includes] the account “of the shekalim donated to the Sanctuary... all its utensils, for its service.”12

Now the theme of the Book of Shmos is the redemption of the Jewish people13 from Egypt. It thus appears that the theme of redemption is connected with the concept of counting (which connects the beginning14 and the conclu­sion15 of the text). A conceptual difficulty thus arises, for seemingly counting and redemption are two opposite concepts. “The very fact that an entity can be counted” — indicates that the entity is limited (and thus can be reck­oned in a tally). Counting thus emphasizes the theme of limitation. Redemption (in its ultimate sense), by contrast, reflects the departure from Egypt, i.e., the transcendence of exile and limitation.16

This fusion of opposites is reflected in the beginning of the book itself. The name of the Torah reading (which reflects the theme of the entire Torah reading) is Shmos, which refers to the limitations17 implied by the counting of “the children of Israel who came into Egypt.” And directly afterwards, the verse relates:18 “And the children of Israel were fruitful, increased, multiplied, and became very, very powerful,” indicating a population explosion far beyond the ordinary norm. This verse is also part of the parshah of Shmos. Thus this prodigious growth is also a part of the “counting” of the Jewish people.

Similarly, the conclusion of the book [Parshas Pekudei], which recounts the reckoning of [the donations for [the Sanctuary], also obviously reflects limitation (for all the vessels of the Sanctuary were of a limited number and size). Nevertheless, the conclusion of the parshah: “Moshe could not enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud rested upon it and the glory of G‑d filled the Sanctuary,” reflects the unlimited manifestation of the Divine Presence in the Tent of Meeting. [Its transcendence was so great that] even Moshe, “the most select of all men,”19 [could not approach it].

IV. In general, the concept can be explained as follows: The ultimate goal is that we should transcend limitations and reach the redemption, a level beyond the measures and limitations of our world. The intent is not, however, that the transcendence will nullify the existence of this limited framework, but that there will be a fusion of infinity and finiteness.20

{We see this concept expressed with regard to the counting of the Jewish people, as it is written:21 “And the number of the children of Israel will be as the sands of the sea which cannot be measured and cannot be counted,” i.e., there will be a number, and that number will “not be meas­ured, nor counted.”

A similar concept applies with regard to the Sanctuary. [G‑d’s Presence,] which is unlimited and unbounded, came to rest in (the vessels of) the Sanctuary which are measured and limited entities.}

[The rationale for this is] that G‑d’s intent is [defined by our Sages as follows:] “The Holy One, blessed be He, desired a dwelling in the lower realms.”22 This implies two dimensions:

a) There must be a dwelling for G‑d’s essence23 (which transcends our worldly frame of reference entirely); and

b) That dwelling shall be in “the lower worlds,”24 i.e., in this material world, below which there is none, (i.e., a limited and bounded framework).

V. These two dimensions — that the dwelling be for G‑d’s essence, and that it be in the lower realms — reflect the difference between the Jewish people and the world at large.

The (inner) dimension of G‑d’s dwelling is “to dwell and rest within the souls of the Jewish people... that they become a resting place in which He dwells.”25 Since “the Holy One, blessed be He, and Israel are one,”26 the Jewish people are the true dwelling for G‑d’s essence, for they are one with His essence.27

{The concept of “a dwelling in the lower realms” for the world at large,28 by contrast, is (merely) that the world will appreciate that the totality of its existence stems from G‑d’s essence; “aside from Him, there is absolutely no existence at all.”29}

This dwelling is established in the lower worlds, through the Divine service of the Jewish people in this material realm, by making physical entities a medium for G‑dliness. For it is through these efforts that the source of the Jewish souls — the level at which they are united with G‑d’s essence — is revealed.30

To use slightly different wording: When will it be revealed that the Jews are a dwelling for G‑d — that they are united with G‑d’s essence in a consummate manner, without any limitations and restraints? When the limits and bounds of this material world do not present any constraint, and instead, the lower realms themselves become a fit place for His dwelling.31

VI. Based on the above, we can appreciate why the begin­ning of the Book of Shmos speaks about the counting of the Jewish people, and the conclusion of the book speaks about the reckoning of the vessels of the Sanctuary.

The Book of Bereishis speaks about the creation itself,32 how it existed before focus was placed on its intent:33 [that it was created] “for the sake of the Jewish people and for the sake of the Torah.”34 The Book of Shmos, in contrast, speaks about the children of Israel, (how they were con­ceived35 [as a people] and how they became the Jewish nation), and the Torah. [These are the mediums] through which the intent of the creation are expressed. In this [endeavor], (i.e., the Jews’ efforts to carry out the purpose of the creation,) there is a beginning and a conclusion.

The beginning (the essence and the inner dimension) of the intent is the Jewish people as they are connected with G‑d’s essence. This is reflected in the counting of the Jewish people recounted in Parshas Shmos which “makes known the dearness of the Jewish people.” (Therefore, it is G‑d Him­self who counts the people — and He counts them in the Torah.)

The conclusion — i.e., how the intent is actually expressed — is through making a Sanctuary for G‑d from material entities.36

VII. The source of the souls of the Jewish people (as they are one with G‑d’s essence) is revealed through their Divine service in the lower realms — in a place of concealment and hiddenness. Accordingly, it can be understood that this is accomplished {to an even greater extent than through building the Sanctuary — for this was a place where G‑dliness was revealed37} through Divine service that involves an entity of the lower realms which is not — as it defines itself — a medium for G‑dliness. In a more general sense, this refers to our Divine service in the era of exile when G‑dliness is not apparent in the world.

This is the reason why, at the conclusion of the account of the work involved in constructing the Sanctuary and the manifestation of the Divine Presence within, [the Torah] tells about the journeys of the Jewish people which are associated with “the ascent of the cloud.” For the ultimate intent of the Sanctuary (which involves making the lower realms a dwelling for G‑d) is achieved primarily through (the potential granted by the Sanctuary38) to carry out “all your journeys.”

In this vein, the Alter Rebbe explains39 that the journeys of the Jewish people through the desert (also) allude to the refinement of the “wilderness of the nations”40 [through the Divine service carried out] throughout the era of exile. In this era, the Divine Presence is also in exile; it is not revealed. {[This is alluded to by] the ascent of the cloud [which indicates] the withdrawal of the Divine Presence.} [Nevertheless,] the Jews refine and transform the conceal­ment of the world, causing G‑dliness to shine within.

VIII. The above concept (— that the ultimate goal of the Sanctuary is achieved through the Divine service performed outside the Sanctuary —) is expressed within the Sanctuary itself, in the fact that the primary service performed in the Sanctuary was sacrificial worship.41

The difference between the Sanctuary and the offering of the sacrifices can be explained as follows: With regard to the construction of the Sanctuary, the ultimate purpose was {primarily not to elevate the material entities from which the Sanctuary was constructed, but} to create a place in this material realm where the Divine Presence could rest from above. (The manifestation of G‑d’s Presence is incompara­bly above [the entire realm of] material entities.) The intent of offering the sacrifices,42 by contrast, was to refine and elevate the physical animal [being offered] and transform it into a sacrifice for G‑d, making it a sacred object.

The sacrificial worship (and the drawing down of holi­ness it brings about) is a preparation to reach a higher level, the manifestation [of G‑d’s Presence] in the Sanctuary, (and more particularly, in the ark).

{This is reflected in the diminutive form of the alef in the word Vayikra [which begins the following book of the Torah], for it alludes to tzimtzum, contraction.43 For sacrifi­cial worship (the theme of the Book of Vayikra) relates to the light of holiness as it is drawn down (— vayikra [means “and He called,” i.e.,] referring to [G‑dly light] as it is called forth and drawn down44 —) which is a lesser level than the manifestation of G‑d’s Presence in the Sanctuary.45}

Nevertheless, it is through this activity that it is possible to reach a higher intent in the Sanctuary,46 to make the material entities themselves mediums for G‑dliness.47

On this basis, we can appreciate how Vayikra, “And He called to Moshe,” (and the entire Book of Sacrifices) follows in conceptual sequence to [the verse] “When the cloud ascended...” ([one of the questions raised] in section II), for they both underscore the same point — that the intent of the Sanctuary should be fulfilled. Indeed, that intent is ful­filled even more in a place where the Divine Presence is not manifest in the Sanctuary.

IX. The Divine service [of the Jewish people] during their journeys lacks the revelation of the Divine Presence. Never­theless,48 these efforts bring into revelation the source of the souls of the Jewish people, the point at which they are united with G‑d’s essence as explained above.

This is the inner intent of the verse: “When the cloud ascended from the Sanctuary, the children of Israel would journey forth on all their travels.” On an apparent level, the Divine Presence did withdraw. From an inner perspective, however, their Divine service [on their journeys] is rooted in a level which is higher than the cloud [which manifested G‑d’s Presence in] the Sanctuary. This level was drawn down [and manifest] in their next encampment. [In that vein, we can appreciate Rashi’s commentary49 which inter­prets] “their journeys” as referring to the place of their encampment.

This provides a lesson for every individual in his Divine service. Despite the darkness of the exile, and despite the inner exile in which each person appreciates that he is found, he should know that [this journey will lead to a posi­tive conclusion].

[A person must be committed to] carrying out the Divine mission “in all their journeys” — i.e., regardless of what the journey is, as long as it is associated with “the cloud of G‑d,” [as it is written] “when the cloud ascended from the Sanctuary, the children of Israel would journey forth... and if the cloud did not ascend, they would not journey forth” — for “From G‑d, man’s footstep are estab­lished.”50 Wherever a person goes, in every situation in which he finds himself, he is given a mission from G‑d to establish a dwelling for Him in the lower realms. Therefore his journey through exile is in accordance with G‑d’s will.

[With this approach,] he will appreciate a positive dimension of “the cloud ascend[ing]”; he will reach a higher level than the cloud. (Although the revelation of the cloud surpasses even the potential of the spark of Moshe Rabbe­inu which he possesses within his soul,51 [he will be able to reach an even higher level]). He will then draw down this level in the encampment which follows until he reaches the rung at which “Israel and the Holy One, blessed be He, are all one.”

(Adapted from Sichos Shabbos Parshas Pekudei, 5724, 5727)