When I was in high school, my father, much to my chagrin, began answering the phone saying Nobody home!, mostly in jest but also implying prospective friends or dates too flummoxed or intimidated were people with whom I should not socialize. (This the same guy who, invited to a boring relative’s three months out, intoned gravely I’m sorry, I have a funeral.)
These days when we say Nobody home, we’re usually referring to what we politely call a “senior moment,” a confusion/absence of facts or names, one or many synapses misfiring. We’re so in the moment we can’t add more to it, or so “out to lunch” we can’t cope with what’s already on our plate.
So how do you know if there’s somebody home or not?
In this reading we’re told “HaShem’s glory” descended to fill the mishkan and will hover over it in a cloud as a sign of God’s presence. If the cloud rises in the morning, time to pack up and get shlepping. If the cloud remains low, a day to stay put. HaShem will also keep a fire burning in the mishkan each night.
Hearth fires give security. Very different than being out in the dark wondering what’s too near, eying us with predatory intent. The fire mean’s God’s home and with you. No matter what’s circling, you can feel safe and protected, if you believe HaShem is home.
How can we know as clearly when we’re really present? Having our brains respond accurately is a good start. Other parts showing up help too. If we’re talking I might hear your words. But that doesn’t guarantee I really understand you, or that I’m ready to help. I may hear that you need something, but unless I open my hands, my wallet, or my heart, you might think nobody’s home.
So if we’re not always fully present—for whatever reasons–why would we assume the divine presence is always on tap? Cloud, schmoud! Couldn’t it be smoke and mirrors?
Q: How do you know anyone’s really home in the mishkan?
A: It’s partly a matter of faith. But if you’re not at home in you, it won’t much matter.
More answer: To live with greater awareness and intention, you have to be home in yourself, regardless of what/who is outside you. You need a strong center, though not one that’s housed in too strong an ego. You should be at least as receptive as you are active. Working on your karmic homework while listening for the help that’s offered you regularly.
How? To really connect with HaShem, not just sidle up to the reassuring presence of the fire or the cloud, you have to really be home in your inner mishkan. You need to listen with your heart and soul as well as with your ears. If you’re thinking too much about your t-shirt dyed pink in the wash, you’re unlikely to hear divine insights, even if they’re telling you how to bleach it–or your soul–white again.
Final answer: If you’re at home with you, HaShem is too.