Lecture 40: The History of the Resting of the Shekhina (Part XIX) - The Mishkan in the Camp and in Transit (Part II) - The Cloud and the Fire Over the Mishkan

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy

 

 

            The book of Shemot closes with a festive account of the resting of the Shekhina in the Mishkan:

 

Then a cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moshe was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud rested on it and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of al the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. (Shemot 40:34-38)

 

            Four things are stated here: 1) When the Mishkan was erected, the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of God filled the Mishkan; 2) Owing to this revelation, Moshe was unable to enter the Tent; 3) The taking up of the cloud from over the Mishkan signaled that it was time for Israel to set forward; 4) The last verse clarifies that the cloud was upon the Mishkan by day and by night there was fire. This lecture will deal with these four points.

 

I.          OTHER REVELATIONS IN FIRE AND CLOUD

 

1)         EARLIER REVELATIONS IN FIRE AND CLOUD

 

The Shekhina revealed itself in fire and cloud already before the dedication of the Mishkan. At the time of the exodus from Egypt, a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night went before the people to guide them on their journey:

 

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way, and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light, that they might go by day and night. He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people. (Shemot 13:21-22)

 

            The revelation of the Shekhina at Mount Sinai was also in fire and cloud:

 

Lo, I come to you in a thick cloud… And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightning, and a thick cloud upon the mountain… And Mount Sinai smoked in every part, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke of it ascended like the smoke of a furnace… And all the people perceived the thundering and the lightning and the sound of the shofar, and the mountain smoking…. (Shemot 19:9, 16, 18; 20:15)

 

And Moshe went up into the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. And the glory of the Lord rested upon Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day, He called to Moshe out of the midst of the cloud. And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel. (ibid., 24:15-17)

 

These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly in the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness… And it came to pass, when you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, for the mountain did burn with fire…. (Devarim 5:18-19)

 

            There is, then, a continuum that runs from the revelation of the Shekhina at the exodus from Egypt through the revelation at Mount Sinai to the building of the Mishkan – a continuum that gives expression to the deep inner connection between the various events - the exodus from Egypt, which testified to all that God chose the people of Israel in order to rest His Shekhina among them; the revelation at Mount Sinai, in which God revealed Himself to the entire nation; and the dedication of the Mishkan, at which time the Shekhina moved from Mount Sinai to the Mishkan in order to continue among the people of Israel and in permanent fashion the revelation that had begun at Sinai.[1]

 

2)         THE CLOUD AND FIRE AT THE DEDICATION OF THE FIRST TEMPLE

 

The dedication of Shlomo's Temple is described in terms similar to those used in the account of the dedication of the Mishkan. After the priests bring the ark of the covenant into the Holy of Holies, we read:

 

And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the cloud of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord. (I Melakhim 8:10-11)[2]

 

            As at the time of the dedication of the Mishkan, God also appears here in a cloud, and His glory fills the Temple. And just as at the dedication of the Mishkan Moshe was unable to enter the Tent owing to the revelation, so, too, at the dedication of the Temple, the priests are unable to enter the Temple owing to the cloud and the glory which filled it.[3]

 

            In light of the correspondence between the two events, the absence of one component – the fire – is striking. This appears only after Shlomo's prayer:

 

Now when Shlomo had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices. (II Divrei Ha-yamim 7:1)

 

            This fire, which is only mentioned in the book of Divrei Ha-yamim, parallels the fire that issued forth from before God and consumed the sacrifices on the altar at the dedication of the Mishkan (Vayikra 9:24), as well as the fire which descended from heaven onto the altar at the threshing floor of Aravna the Yevusi (I Divrei Ha-yamim 21:26). As we expanded upon the matter in the past (lecture no. 25 in last year's series), the appearance of the cloud and the descent of the fire onto the altar complement each other and give expression to the two main functions of the Mikdash. The appearance of the cloud reflects the resting of the Shekhina, and it therefore comes in the wake of the entry of the ark, which more than any other vessel expresses this reality; the fire, on the other hand, comes down from heaven in the wake of man's prayer[4] and offering of sacrifices, the aspects that express man's service of God.

 

Based on this, we can also understand why the book of Melakhim describes the appearance of the cloud, but it is only in the book of Divrei Ha-yamim – written by Ezra the Scribe in the days of the second Temple, when the Shekhina did not rest in the Temple and its primary function was man's service of God – that an account is given of the fire coming down from heaven (see also lecture 5 in last year's series).

 

            At first glance, it appears that these are two different manners of revelation; the fire described at the end of the book of Shemot does not seem to be the same fire that came down to the altar in the book of Vayikra. But if this is true, we come to an exceedingly strange conclusion - that the resting of the Shekhina in the first Temple lacked the dimension of the fire of the revelation of the Shekhina in the Temple and only had the fire that came down to the altar. If behooves us, therefore, to examine more closely the inner connection between the fire and the cloud.

 

II.         THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE FIRE AND THE CLOUD

 

A hint to the proper understanding of the relationship between the fire and the cloud is found in another source that mentions both. One of the Torah sections that precedes the maiden journey of the people of Israel in the wilderness repeats the description of the resting of the Shekhina upon the Mishkan. That section expands upon the order of the journey in accordance with the cloud, but for now let us limit ourselves to the first two verses:

 

And on the day that the tabernacle was erected, the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony; and at evening, there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning. So it was always: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. (Bamidbar 9:15-16)

 

            This account is very similar to the one found at the end of the book of Shemot, although there it says that at night there was a "fire" in the Mishkan "fire," while here it says that at night there was "the appearance of fire." In other words, the revelation by day and the revelation by night were identical, and what changed was the appearance. How so?

 

            In order to understand this, we must consider another concept connected to the resting of the Shekhina in the Mishkan and in the Mikdash that has not yet been mentioned – "the glory of the Lord." The combination of fire, cloud, and the glory of God are familiar to us already from Mount Sinai:

 

And Moshe went up into the mountain and the cloud covered the mountain. And the glory of the Lord rested upon Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day He called to Moshe out of the midst of the cloud. And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel. (ibid., 24:15-17)

 

            Already upon the first reading, an important point stands out in striking fashion: The fire is not real fire, but rather the appearance of the glory of the Lord. The glory of the Lord – the point of the resting of the Shekhina itself – is represented by an appearance of fire. Upon closer examination, a question arises: It is stated here that Moshe went up to the mountain, the cloud covered the mountain, the glory of the Lord, which had the appearance of fire, rested on the mountain, and then "the cloud covered it" – covered what? Rashi writes that the cloud covered the mountain, and the Ibn Ezra in his short commentary explains similarly; in his long commentary, however, the Ibn Ezra writes that the cloud covered Moshe. R. Yitzchak Abravanel (in his commentary to I Melakhim 8) offers an original explanation – the cloud covered the glory:

 

The glory of the Lord refers specifically to the light that was visible inside the cloud, which Scripture refers to as fire, as Scripture says: "And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain." We see, then, that the glory of the Lord is not the cloud, but rather it is something similar to fire in its light and its brilliance, and the cloud surrounds it and covers it, just as smoke is always around a fire… Thus, the glory of the Lord that is similar to fire was in the cloud and the darkness…

 

            In light of this, the Abravanel explains the difference in appearance between day and night: "Since the two are connected, the fire and the cloud, the fire was visible at night owing to the absence of the light of the sun, but it was not visible by day owing to the glare of the sun." And in accordance with this explanation, he explains the resting of the Shekhina in Shlomo's Temple:

 

Since the glory of the Lord refers specifically to the fire, and in general to the cloud and the fire, it says here in the book of Melakhim, "the cloud filled the house of the Lord," namely the cloud of Glory in which there was the fire…

Now before Shlomo's prayer, when the ark was set down in its place, the cloud containing the fire and called "the glory of the Lord" came down and filed the Temple. About this Shlomo said, "The Lord said He would dwell in the thick darkness" (I Melakhim 8:12), and he offered all his prayers, and when he finished praying, the fire that was in the cloud came down upon the altar.[5]

 

            We see, then, that the fire and the cloud are two components of the revelation of the Shekhina, comprised of the glory of the Lord, which is similar to fire in its light and its brilliance, and of the cloud that surrounds it.[6] Since the two comprise a single totality, the word "cloud" in the story of the dedication of Shlomo's Temple refers to the cloud as well as to the fire contained within it. And the fire of the glory of the Lord is the same fire that descended upon the altar.[7]

 

            The Malbim (in his commentary to I Melakhim 8:10) tries to explain in this manner a certain difference between the revelation of the fire and the cloud in the Mishkan and their revelation in the Mikdash:

 

At the end of the building of the Mishkan, it says: "Then a cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle," that is, a cloud covered the Tent from above, around it, from the outside, and the glory, which is created light, filled the Mishkan from the inside. In the Mikdash, both the cloud and the glory were on the inside. This is because the Shekhina in the Mishkan was not permanent, and therefore the glory was visible without any cover, indicating that this is not its place, because when the glory is found in its place, it is surrounded by cloud and darkness. This was also the case at the revelation at Mount Sinai, but at the Mishkan the cloud was by itself and the glory was by itself…

But in Shlomo's Temple, in which the glory rested in a permanent fashion… the glory rested in the cloud, as it does above. And this is what Shlomo [meant when he] said: "The Lord said that He would dwell in the thick darkness. I have surely built You a house to dwell in, etc." (I Melakhim 8:12-13). That is to say: From the fact that I see that the glory of God rests in a cloud and thick darkness, from this it is evident that it is permanent resting, a house to dwell in, and that it is a settled place to abide in forever.

 

            In other words, the presence of the glory inside the cloud, as it is in heaven – "a cloud and darkness surround Him" (Tehillim 97:2) – reflects the permanence of the resting of the Shekhina in the Temple. In contrast, the temporary nature of the resting of the Shekhina in the Mishkan reflects itself in the fact that the glory appears inside the cloud, but separate from it, exposed, as it were, I order to say that this is not its place.[8]

 

III.        "AND MOSHE WAS NOT ABLE TO ENTER THE TENT OF MEETING"

 

At the end of the book of Shemot, it is stated that, owing to the revelation of the Shekhina in the fire and cloud, Moshe was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting:

 

Then a cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moshe was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud rested on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Shemot 40:34-35)

 

            The clear continuation of this passage is found at the beginning of the book of Vayikra – "And the Lord called to Moshe and spoke to him out of the Tent of Meeting, saying" (Vayikra 1:1) – but the relationship between the two accounts requires explanation. The commentators disagree on the matter; here we will bring the three main approaches to the issue.

 

            One possible understanding is brought by the Ramban (ad loc.), according to which "Moshe did not enter the Mishkan, but rather [God] called him from the Tent of Meeting and he stood at the door of the Tent of Meeting and He spoke to him."

 

            Rashi (ad loc., based on the petichta to Torat Kohanim 8) confronts our verses with a verse that states explicitly that Moshe entered into the Tent of Meeting:

 

"And Moshe was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting." And another verse states: "And when Moshe was gone into the Tent of Meeting" (Bamidbar 7:89)! Comes a third verse and harmonizes them: "Because the cloud rested on it." Say then: As long as the cloud rested on it, he was not able to enter; when the cloud departed he would enter and He would speak with him.

 

            In other words, at first Moshe was unable to enter the Tent of Meeting – until the cloud departed. Based on these words of Rashi, his grandson, the Rashbam, argues that the resting of the Shekhina in the Mishkan and in the Mikdash took place in two stages:

 

"And Moshe was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting" – when it was set up, because the cloud immediately rested upon it, to show the love of the Holy One, blessed be He, for Israel. Afterwards, the cloud departed from the Tent and rested on the ark, as it is written: "And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you etc., from between the two keruvim." Then Moshe came to the Tent of Meeting, as it is written: "And when Moshe was gone into the Tent of Meeting to speak with him, then he heard the voice, etc. from between the two keruvim." And so, too, you find in the permanent Temple: "So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord" (I Melakhim 8:11). When the Temple was completed, the Holy One, blessed be He, sanctified it with a cloud, but afterwards He constricted His Shekhina on the ark between the poles.

 

            The common denominator between these two explanations is that both assume that Moshe was, in fact, unable to enter into the cloud, the actual site of the resting of the Shekhina. The Ramban, however, proposes a third understanding, which disagrees with this assumption by way of comparison, consistent with his approach (see lecture no. 20 in last year's series), between the resting of the Shekhina in the Mishkan and the revelation at Mount Sinai:

 

And it says that Moshe was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting, even to the door, because the cloud covered it and he was not permitted to enter the cloud; and furthermore, because the Mishkan was filled with the glory of the Lord – how could he enter it? And the reason is that he should not go there without permission, but rather He will call him, and he will come into the cloud, as he did at Mount Sinai: "On the seventh day He called to Moshe out of the midst of the cloud" (Shemot 24:16), and it says: "And Moshe went into the midst of the cloud" (ibid. v. 18).

 

            And so, too, he writes in his commentary to Vayikra 1:1:

 

Scripture says here: "And the Lord called to Moshe, and spoke to him," and not so in other places, because Moshe was only able to enter the Tent of Meeting, to approach the place where God was, after being called… And since he knew that God who sits on the keruvim was there, he was afraid to enter the Tent until He called to him, as He had done at Mount Sinai, as it is stated: "On the seventh day He called to Moshe out of the midst of the cloud."[9]

 

IV.       THE CLOUD IN THE CAMP AND DURING A JOURNEY

 

As was stated above, the beginning of the book of Vayikra is the direct continuation of the end of the book of Shemot. The end of the book of Shemot has, however, another clear continuation – in a section from the book of Bamidbar, the beginning of which we saw above.[10] That section, which relates how the camp of Israel prepares to leave Mount Sinai and set out on a journey, opens with a repetition of the festive account of the resting of the Shekhina on the Mishkan. It then explains in great detail – and on the superficial level in excessive detail – the camping and journeying according to the cloud, which was briefly mentioned at the end of the book of Shemot:

 

And on the day that the tabernacle was erected the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony; and at evening there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning. So it was always: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed; and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel encamped. As long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle, they remained encamped. And when the cloud tarried long upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the Lord, and journeyed not. And at times it was, that the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle; according to the command of the Lord they remained encamped, and according to the command of the Lord they journeyed. And at times it was, that the cloud abode from evening until morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed; whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed. Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining over it, the children of Israel remained encamped, and journeyed not; but when it was taken up, they journeyed. At the command of the Lord they remained encamped, and at the command of the Lord they journeyed; they kept the charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by the hand of Moshe. (Bamidbar 9:15-23)[11]

 

            The cloud served two purposes when Israel journeyed. First, the cloud led the people[12] and showed them the way, as we find at the time of the exodus from Egypt: "And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light; that they might go by day and night" (Shemot 13:21).[13] Second, the cloud determined when Israel would camp and when they would journey, as the Torah emphasizes time and time again: "At the command of the Lord they remained encamped, and at the command of the Lord they journeyed."

 

            In the previous lecture, we dealt in great detail with the process of journeying at the command of the cloud and with the significance of journeying "at the command of the Holy One." Here we wish merely to emphasize another important point arising from this biblical passage that was noted by Israel Rosenson:[14]

 

In my opinion, an important point is the emphasis placed on the uncertainty regarding time. I refer to the different durations of time that they were found in different places, durations of time subject to the "orders' given by the cloud: "And when the cloud tarried long upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the Lord, and journeyed not. And at times it was, that the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle; according to the command of the Lord they remained encamped, and according to the command of the Lord they journeyed. And at times it was, that the cloud abode from evening until morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed; whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed. Or whether it was two days, or a month, or a year that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining over it, the children of Israel remained encamped, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed."

The detailed description… strongly emphasizes the varying duration… It is, of course, possible to propose a general explanation for these differences in the length of time that they stayed in each encampment based on changing objective needs… Based on the wording of this passage, however, it seems clear that there is no hint here to prosaic needs. What is portrayed here is the arbitrary dimension, i.e., journeying at the command of God, which expresses the absolute obligation to keep His charge… Keeping "the charge of the Lord"… necessitates - what seems to be a test - subordination to a schedule that intentionally lacks clarity and logic.

In practice, the wanderings work here in precisely the opposite way than one would initially have expected! The cloud must not be perceived as "an advisor for efficient encamping"… This is an incorrect understanding. Rather the cloud must be perceived as raising to the surface the simple and well-known religious challenge – obeying God.[15]

 

V.        THE CLOUD – THE REVELATION IN THE COVERING

 

How, then, are we to understand the phenomenon of the cloud?

 

On the one hand, the passages that we have seen imply that the cloud comes to cover and conceal the revelation of God. The word "cover" appears both at the end of the book of Shemot ("Then a cloud covered the Tent of Meeting") and in the book of Bamidbar ("the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony… the cloud covered it"), and as we saw above, at the dedication of the Mishkan and at the dedication of the Mikdash, the cloud covered the revelation of the Shekhina and prevented entry inside.

 

In the same passages, however, we find other formulations, which imply that the cloud itself is an expression of the resting of the Shekhina: "because the cloud rested on it," "and in the place where the cloud abode… as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle… And at times it was that the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle…." Presenting the appearance of the cloud by day as paralleling the appearance of the fire by night (which undoubtedly served as a revelation of the Shekhina) also testifies to the fact that the appearance of the cloud reveals and marks the presence of the Shekhina. And of course, the very fact that the cloud determined the journeys and encampments stems from its representing the Shekhina; the taking up of the cloud from the Mishkan means that God has risen from the place and is leaving it, while the camping of the cloud represents the camping of God, as it were. When Israel follows after the cloud, they are in essence walking in the footsteps of God.

 

Furthermore, in other places in the book of Bamidbar it is explicitly stated that God reveals Himself and appears in a cloud:

 

And the Lord came down in a cloud and spoke to him and took of the spirit that was upon him and gave it to the seventy elders. (Bamidbar 11:25)

 

And the Lord came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the tent. (ibid. 12:5)

 

And it came to pass, when the congregation was gathered against Moshe and against Aharon, that they looked toward the Tent of Meeting; and, behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared. (ibid. 17:7)[16]

 

            Moshe also sees the cloud as a clear expression of the resting of God's Shekhina on His people, Israel:

 

And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land, who have heard that You Lord are among this people, that You Lord are seen face to face, and that Your cloud stands over them, and that You go before them, by day time in a pillar of cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night. (Bamidbar 14:14)

 

            In practice, the cloud accompanies the people of Israel from the exodus from Egypt throughout their wanderings in the wilderness. It is last seen when Moshe hands over the leadership to Yehoshua (Devarim 31:15), and it does not appear at all in the book of Yehoshua. In other words, the cloud expresses the revelation and resting of the Shekhina on Israel in the framework of God's direct and unmediated miraculous governance of Israel that is characteristic of the period of the wilderness.

 

            We see, then, that the cloud involves both concealment and revelation. In its essence, the cloud serves as a cover; but this very cover involves appearance and revelation, for the very appearance of the cover testifies to the existence of the One that it covers.

 

***

 

            The next lecture will deal with the location of the vessels of the Mishkan, and especially that of the ark, on the journeys, and with that we will complete our examination of the place of the Mishkan while in the camp and while in transit.

 

            May it be Your will that the prophecy of Yeshayahu (4:5)) be speedily fulfilled:

 

And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion and upon her assemblies a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for upon all the glory shall there be a canopy.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)

 

 

[1] For the idea of the Mishkan as the continuation of the revelation at Mount Sinai, see lecture no. 20 (in last year's series) and lecture no. 31 (in this year's series).

[2] Shlomo's response is: "Then spoke Shlomo, 'The Lord said that He would dwell in the thick darkness. I have surely built You a house to dwell in, a settled place for You to abide in for ever'" (I Melakhim 8:12-13). Rashi explains that Shlomo means to say that the appearance of the cloud is a sign of the resting of the Shekhina: "Then spoke Shlomo – when he saw the cloud, he said: Now I see that the Shekhina rests in the house that I have built, for thus He had promised, to come and dwell in it in a cloud and thick darkness. Where did He say [this]? 'For I appear in the cloud upon the ark cover' (Vayikra 16:2). So it is taught in the Sifrei" (the midrash cited by Rashi is not in the Sifrei that we have; see Mekhilta Bo, massekhta de-pischa, sec. 12). Rabbi Yosef Kara offers a similar explanation, noting that the word "arafel" (thick darkness) appears also in the account of the revelation at Mount Sinai (Shemot 20:17). Targum Yonatan, however, renders the verse as follows: "Then spoke Shlomo, 'The Lord wished to rest His Shekhina in Jerusalem." It is not clear why he translates "arafel" as Jerusalem. Later in this lecture, we will see the Malbim's understanding of this verse.

[3] There are, however, clear differences: At the dedication of the Mishkan, the cloud covers the tent, whereas at the dedication of the Mikdash, it fills the house; at the dedication of the Mishkan, Moshe is unable to enter the tent, whereas in the Mikdash, the priests are unable to stand and minister there. As for the priests' entry into the Mikdash, the wording in Divrei Ha-yamim parallels what is stated regarding the Mishkan: "And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord's house" (II Divrei Ha-yamim 7:2). Regarding the first difference, see the words of the Malbim cited below.

[4] The descent of the fire in the book of Vayikra is also preceded by a prayer. See Vayikra 9:23: "And Moshe and Aharon went into the Tent of Meeting, and came out, and blessed the people" – and Rashi, ad loc.

[5] The fire on the altar at the dedication of the Mishkan (Vayikra 9:23-24) can also be explained in this manner. The fire representing the glory of God, which until now had been covered by the cloud in the Mishkan, goes out to the altar, and thus the glory of God becomes visible to all of the people. The Abravanel himself, however, explains there that the fire descended from heaven.

[6] When we examine the matter more closely, we find that this principle emerges already at the first appearance of a cloud in the Torah, at the covenant made with Noach when he emerged from the ark: "I have set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between Me and the earth… And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant…" (Bereishit 9:13-16). The essence of the covenant is the bow, but the bow does not stand on its own, but rather against the backdrop of the cloud: "And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud" (ibid., v. 14). Indeed, in the ma'aseh ha-merkava in the book of Yechezkel it is stated that the appearance of the glory of God like fire in a cloud is like the appearance of a bow in the cloud: "And I looked, and, behold, a storm wind came out of the north, a great cloud and a fire flaring up, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst of it, as it were the color of electrum, out of the midst of the fire… And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above it. And I saw something like the color of electrum, like the appearance of fire round about enclosing it; from what appeared to be his loins upward, and from what appeared to be his loins downward, I saw what appeared to be fire, and there was a brightness round about him. As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard the voice of one that spoke" (Yechezkel 1:4, 26-28).

[7] I learned of this explanation of the Abravanel (which he develops at length in Parashat Pekudei) from the book of Rav Moshe Odes, Bi-Levavi Mishkan Evneh (Jerusalem, 5766), p. 450. It should be noted that the idea that the glory of the Lord rests in the cloud is not the Abravanel's invention. It was suggested by earlier commentators, and it accords with the plain sense of various biblical passages. See, for example, the Ramban on Shemot 40:34-35: "'And the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, etc.' – the cloud covered the tent from all sides, and it was covered and concealed within it. 'And the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle' – for it was filled with the glory, because the glory rests within the cloud inside the tabernacle. As it is stated at Mount Sinai: 'to the thick darkness where God was' (Shemot 20:18)." The novelty in the words of the Abravanel lies in his development of the idea, both from a conceptual perspective (the meaning of the cloud in Scripture in general) and from an exegetical perspective (his understanding of the words, "and the cloud covered it," and of the verses dealing with the resting of the Shekhina in the first Temple), upon which we focused here.

[8] In the continuation, the Malbim explains that the difference in the order in which the vessels were brought into the Mishkan and the Mikdash also reflects this difference.

Attention should be paid to the fact that the cloud and the glory were in different places in the Mishkan: "Then a cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." Understanding the difference between the Tent of Meeting and the tabernacle requires a comprehensive examination of the structure of the Mishkan, a task which, beli neder, we will undertake next year. Here, we wish merely to say that, generally speaking, the term "tabernacle/Mishkan" refers to God's house – the place where God dwells – whereas the term "Tent of Meeting" refers to the place where God meets with Moshe.

[9] As R. Amos Chakham so aptly put it (Da'at Mikra on Shemot 40:35): "After Moshe finished setting up the Mishkan, he wanted to go in to stand before the Shekhina the way he had stood at Mount Sinai, but he was unable to enter… because the cloud rested on the Mishkan, i.e., it covered and enveloped it from all sides, and blocked the entranceway… And even were Moshe to break a path through the cloud, he was afraid of the fire. And therefore God called to him that he should enter and not be afraid, as it is stated at the beginning of the book of Vayikra, that verse continuing what is written here."

[10] I learned the idea of the two-fold continuation of the end of the book of Shemot from my revered teacher, Rav Yoel Bin Nun.

[11] In the continuation, the account of the first journey opens with the fact that Israel journeyed and camped based on the command of the cloud: "And it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle of the Testimony. And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran" (Bamidbar 10:11-12).

[12] Israel Rosenson, Devarim Bamidbar – Iyyunim Parshaniyim Be-Sefer Bamidbar (Jerusalem, 5764), p. 100, notes that in a certain sense, the Mishkan itself became the leader (even though it itself journeyed among the camps), "at least in the sense that the cloud resting upon it was the first entity to be set in motion."

[13] The Netziv (Ha'amek Davar, Shemot 13:22 and Bamidbar 9:15), however, notes that there is a difference: At the exodus from Egypt, there were two different pillars – a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night – whereas over the Mishkan there was only one cloud, which at night had the appearance of fire, as was explained above.

[14] In his aforementioned book (note 12), pp. 100-101.

[15] Chazal expanded on the functions of the cloud. Here is one famous example: "There were seven clouds, above, below, and on the four sides, and one ahead of them, smiting snakes and scorpions, and leveling the mountains and valleys for them, and burning the thorns, which would give off smoke, visible to all the kings of the east and the west. And the nations of the world would say: 'Who is this coming out of the wilderness like columns of smoke' (Shir Ha-shirim 3:6)" (Tanchuma Bamidbar 2:2). Other midrashim give expression to different aspects of God's providence over His nation.

[16] The wording of these passages brings to mind the revelation to Moshe in the cleft of the rock: "And the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there" (Shemot 34:5).