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90/929 Shemot Unhappy Ending

April 27, 2015, 12:10 am

We’ve travelled the book of Shemot for 40 chapters, growing from a nation of slaves, performing meaningless, menial labor for others, into a nation reaching the pinnacle of human creativity, each member of the nation freely choosing to dedicate the best they have to create a place to encounter God on earth.

One is tempted to feel that we’ve worked so hard and come so far, we deserve a happy ending, the realization of full spiritual redemption in the intimate encounter between God and the people.

But, as Rachel Fraenkel taught us so eloquently this past summer, God doesn’t work for us. Before we can continue to the book of Vayikra, and its detailed instructions in the use of the Mishkan, we have to internalize this point, and so the book of Shemot ends with a subtle crisis, a most unhappy ending.

God’s glory fills the Mishkan, true, but it does so so completely that Moshe cannot enter. The goal of God’s voice speaking to man from between the keruvim is left unrealized. That is, at least, until the opening word of the book of Vayikra.

What happens in the space in between? Rashi on the first verse of Vayikra explains that the gaps in the Torah text allow space for reflection. In the frustrating moment between books, a crucial lesson is taught. Finite man, after all his great efforts, is infinitely, impossibly distant from God. The service of God isn’t about bending God to our will, and to our needs. It begins with the humble recognition that the distance between us and God is truly infinite, and only the grace of the infinite God, God’s call to us, can bridge that. That call can be heard only when we are willing to shrink our egos, to make our ‘aleph’ small. Only then will we be open to understanding the lesson of the korbanot.


This is my own little insight about the 929 chapter of the day, in 300 words or so. But i get extra words for special days…  I’d love to hear your comments and start a conversation

What’s 929? A near-impossible challenge of consistency. A song of Jewish unity. A beautiful project worth checking out. Learn more at