Friday, March 11, 2016
After the construction of the Mishkan was completed, the Torah relates that a cloud covered the Mishkan, signifying that, at last, the Divine Presence came to dwell in the Mishkan. The Torah then relates that the cloud would remain on the Mishkan for as long as Bnei Yisrael were intended to camp at a particular location. When the cloud would rise from the Mishkan, it was a sign that it was time for them to proceed in their journeys through the desert.
This detail about Bnei Yisrael’s journeys in the desert would seem to belong in the Book of Bamidbar, (and is indeed repeated there,) where the Torah describes the travel patterns Bnei Yisrael’s in detail. Conversely, here, where the Torah relates that the Divine Presence finally dwelled in the Mishkan, this statement about the ascent of the Divine Presence from the Mishkan when it was time to travel seems entirely out of place! In truth, however, this mention of Bnei Yisrael’s journeys serves as a perfect conclusion for the account of the Mishkan’s construction, and indeed for the entire Book of Shemos.
The Book of Bereishis tells the story of the world’s creation and the beginnings of humankind. The purpose of creation is announced in the Book of Shemos: the Jewish nation is born and they are given the Torah to guide them. Their task? To make a home wherein the Divine Presence can dwell and be manifest.
The construction of the Mishkan—a physical structure wherein G-d’s presence was revealed—was the most obvious realization of this objective, and it is therefore the big theme in the final portions of the Book of Shemos.
There remained, however, another detail that was necessary for the world’s purpose to be realized. The final verses of the Book of Shemos discuss the journeys of Bnei Yisrael, which in a broader sense, are symbolic of the exile of the Jewish people among foreign nations, in lands where Torah and G-dliness were hitherto unknown. With this the Torah hints that the Jewish people’s ultimate goal is not only to reveal G-dliness in the Mishkan, but also, “ when BneiYisrael set out on all their journeys”—to reveal that even the lowliness and darkness of the world, beyond the confines of the Mishkan, can be transformed into a place wherein G-d’s presence can be revealed.
—Likutei Sichos vol. 16 pp. 475-479