The end of the parasha gives us the play-by-play of how all of the instructions for the Mishkan were carried out by Moses. From an educational standpoint, I also see it as an assessment of the overall process. When I was in graduate school, my teacher, Susan Wall, (and also a past Head of School of Ezra!) used to always remind us that goals and assessment go together. When your goals, expectations, and instructions are laid out and planned for accordingly, it is much easier to determine success. As I read through the end events of the parasha, I was struck with a sense of completion. Moses completes the task that he set out to accomplish and he did it with the contributions of the Israelites.
Perhaps one of the most striking parts of this parasha for me is at the very end of the text. We are told that after Moses finished setting up the Mishkan and all of its components, that a cloud hovered over it and that this was a signal that Moses could not enter. The cloud would remain over the Mishkan while the Israelites remained camped, and then would lift when it came time to dismantle and travel. At night, the cloud would be replaced by a pillar of fire.
While this speaks to a different understanding of the presence of God than we might have today, it also speaks to people who are in transition and are leaving one life in search of their next home. The extra guidance and visual reminder that the cloud provides is both connected to the presence of God in the Mishkan, but also is a reminder to the people that they are not alone and therefore serves as a kind of beacon. Today, we have different understandings about the presence of God that are supported by Judaism. For some, God is everywhere, for some, God is particularly accessible in nature or in a particular historic place. We are also created in the image of God, so God is a part of us. This specific text reminds me that we, ourselves can also serve as that beacon.
I am reminded of this when confronted by terrifying events like those that are currently plaguing the people of Ukraine. We have the responsibility to serve as beacons of hope, justice, and support whenever and wherever we are needed. Seeing our local community and Jewish community come together has been inspirational, and also shows us that there is still so much to be done. In the coming days and weeks, we will continue to provide support for our students’ questions and will also continue to update our community with resources that may be helpful as we continue to watch and also feel the need to send support.
Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom and a peaceful weekend for us and the whole world,
If you’re looking for some resources on Ukraine, particularly in relation to the Shoah and Jewish communities, please see this statement which was shared with me by Ezra parent Aya Marczyk who works at the Fortunoff Video Archive. This has also been shared with teachers and schools state-wide.