One of the most challenging events, even for the most experienced of pilots is flying in fog, in cloud cover. For pilots that are not skilled, cloud cover, fog is an extremely dangerous and a potentially deadly hazard.
Tragically, each year people are killed due to fog/cloud related aviation accidents. Low visibility, low ceilings and instrumentation failure is caused due to clouds/fog.
And so it is very curious that throughout the Torah, the word “Anan” – cloud / fog – confusion and a lag of clarity, is used to represent the very real imminence of God’s Presence.
In Parshat Noach, after the flood a cloud signifies the renewal of the relationship between God and His creation:
וְהָיְתָה הַקֶּשֶׁת בֶּעָנָן וּרְאִיתִיהָ לִזְכּור בְּרִית עוֹלָם
בֵּין אֱלֹקים וּבֵין כָּל נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה בְּכָל בָּשָׂר אֲשֶׁר עַל הָאָרֶץ׃
When the rainbow is in the cloud,
I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant
between God and all living creatures, all flesh that is on earth. (Genesis 9:16)
At Mount Sinai, clouds represent the Presence of God.
…וַיְהִי קולות וּבְרָקִים וְעָנָן כָּבֵד עַל הָהָר…
…and there was thunder and lightning, and a dense cloud upon the mountain…
We also find this symbolism at the end of this week’s Torah portions of Vayakhel/ Pekudei, at the moment of the completion of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle:
וַיְכַס הֶעָנָן אֶת אוהֶל מוֹעֵד וּכְבוֹד ה’ מָלֵא אֶת הַמִּשְׁכָּן
And the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting,
and the Presence of the LORD filled the Tabernacle.
וְלֹא יָכול מֹשֶׁה לָבוֹא אֶל אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד
Moshe could not enter into the Mishkan/Tabernacle
כִּי שָׁכַן עָלָיו הֶעָנָן
because the cloud covering was there
and as the verse continues:
וּכְבוֹד ה’ מָלֵא אֶת הַמִּשְׁכָּן
and the Presence of God therefore filled the Tabernacle. (Exodus 40:34-35)
Why is it that cloud cover represents God’s Presence?
What is it about the Anan that symbolizes an engagement between God and humankind?
I’d love to hear your answer to this. It has always bothered me.
I’d like to suggest that it’s because our relationship with God can sometimes be clouded, complicated.
For you and I to have a relationship with God, it doesn’t mean that there is complete clarity in the relationship.
Like flying within the fog, our spiritual instrumentation can be disturbed; can lack balance or clarity of navigation.
And that’s okay.
So if our relationship with God, or belief in Him, is not perfect, that’s okay.
If a lack of clarity leads to doubts, that’s understandable.
If we question, that’s fine.
If we don’t understand, that’s to be expected.
There are moments in our lives when we may feel clarity in our relationship with God, but there are also many moments when we have questions, when we’re not so sure about things.
God appearing in cloud cover is telling us: “Its alright. I will be with you even when you are experiencing a lack of clarity.”
Lack of clarity can sometimes be unnerving and frightening.
Yet even this type of relationship with God can still be transformational and spiritually uplifting.