“Return us to You, G-d, and we will return" to the Synagogues

After a year of living under the shadow of COVID, G-d is calling us to return to our shuls with joy and thanksgiving.

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol ,

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
INN: Daniel Malichi

The end of a Sefer in the Torah is always very significant, because it is the “aftertaste” that accompanies us when we part from that book of the Torah. Parashat Pekudei ends the parshiot of the making the Mishkan. Here the Mishkan is finally ready. In summary: the period of preparing the Mishkan was a wonderful time for the people of Israel.

On Yom Kippur, Moshe descends from Mount Sinai, informs the people of Israel that they have been forgiven for the sin of the golden calf, brings them two new Luchot, and announces to them that G-d has decided to have His presence dwell among them and the people of Israel should build him a house in the center of the Israelite’s camp.

The nation of Israel immediately set to work and within two days all the raw materials needed to make the Mishkan were collected. Within a few months the Mishkan was ready. And everyone was ready and waiting for the grand opening. And then, at the end of this week’s parsha, in the last verses of the Book of Shemot, something tragic and unexpected happens. After Moshe Rabbeinu finished erecting the Mishkan, the Torah says: "And a cloud covered the Ohel Moed (Mishkan), and the glory of G-d filled the Mishkan. And Moshe was unable to enter the Ohel Moed because the cloud covered it and the glory of G-d filled the Mishkan.”

Although the Shechinah fills the Mishkan, Moshe Rabbeinu cannot enter. The event hall is ready, the food on the tables, the decorations are hanging, but the hall is closed and it is impossible to enter and enjoy what is inside. Only at the beginning of the next parsha, at the beginning of the Book of Vayikra, Moshe will be able to enter the Mishkan, when G-d calls Moshe and give him permission to enter.

This may come to teach us that after all our efforts as human beings, as we saw in the tremendous labor of the people of Israel in the establishment of the Mishkan, we have no ability to succeed in any mission without Divine assistance. We must always remember that our ability as humans is limited, and only when we internalize this, and be humble in the face of Divine greatness, will we be successful in anything that we undertake.

How appropriate this message is for the COVID period! There was a long time period in which unfortunately we were unable to enter our shul. G-d, through COVID, closed the synagogues and did not allow us to enter His house, even though we so wanted to. During this time, we learned a great lesson in humility, and in recognizing our limitations as flesh and blood. And now, slowly slowly, G-d, who gave humans the knowledge and ability to develop the vaccines, calls us to return to our shuls. It is incumbent on us to respond to G-d's call and return to our shul.

In addition, our return to the synagogue after about a year, should be filled with joy and gratitude to G-d who allowed us to return to pray and study in a holy place. We must strive with all our might that our prayers and our attitude towards the synagogue be much more uplifting than before COVID, because now we better understand how much we need G-d at every moment in our lives.

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol is the head of the Barkai Rabbinical Organization and the rabbi of the Shaarei Yonah Menachem community in Modi'in