We all get our instructions in different ways. I’m not talking about literal voices, but the certainty of trusting your gut about people, places, things; life decisions big and small. Listening to the messages from your inner guides about everything from meditating or exercising more to proposing marriage.
This reading details the building of the mishkan, the core of the Tent of Meeting, the site of assembly for prayer. It’s a lightening rod for holy energy, a conduit to the ineffable. We’re told HaShem will speak from the space between two cherubim on its top. Their faces look both across and down. So the voice of HaShem comes from simultaneously confronting faces of Self and Other.
Someone once asked what I believed in. I answered “synchronicity.” That’s still true. Now I’d say, I believe we’re in an active conversation with the unseen. And if we’re not, we should be.
There’s great cartoon where a mother’s circling the teenaged boy sprawled on the couch, giving him advice. His thought balloon reads, Someday I’m going to have to ask her what she’s been saying all these years.
That’s the opposite of what the Mishkan is for. It’s a mandate for us to actively listen through our ears, eyes, hearts, laughter, and tears. And through the deep knowing we get from the wisps of divine presence inside our inner Mishkan, whether that comes through creativity or comfort in times of trouble.
My name for that knowing is among my favorite names for HaShem: HaMakom, The Place. After Jacob dreams of the angels ascending and descending a ladder to the heavens, he says God was in this place and I did not know.
HaShem is always here. Inside each of us. Now and always. Our job is to remember that we are always in HaMakom. That’s truly living in gratitude .
We’re all on a quest for an inner sense of rightness. For a world in harmony and balance at the deepest, most profound, and purest level of being: how prayer feels when it is answered. That’s part of what these readings tell us: Keep coming; keep asking; keep listening.
The road that we travel carrying the Mishkan leads through many difficult lands. Like the ferocious tribe of Amalek that attacked the Israelites, killing stragglers and becoming an iconic name for all future evils–from the Inquisition to the Holocaust–we are beset by various forms of nemesis. Confusion, fear, doubt, ennui, pain, loneliness, illness. All the inner Amaleks we create for ourselves, and all those we encounter and must learn from because we’re here being human, living and trying to make some spiritual progress.
I’d never have prayed for some of the issues in my own private wilderness, like the end of a relationship or a bad back. But they’ve helped me to grow. Helped lead me to where I’ve deeply wanted to be, and helped me hear HaShem more clearly.
So for all the detailed assembly instructions, my simplest interpretation of this reading echoes Judaism’s holiest prayer: Listen. Listen. Listen. HaShem is answering.