Continuing the Revelation
Yael Eckstein | June 14, 2022
On the day the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant law, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. — Numbers 9:15
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Behaalotecha, which means “when you raise up,” from Numbers 8:1–12:16.
By now you probably know that in Jewish synagogues, we read the parshah, the weekly Torah portion on Shabbat. It’s how I’ve been writing and sharing these devotions with you. But now, let me share the experience with you.
The Torah scrolls are stored in a closet at the front of the synagogue called an Aron — an ark. Usually, the ark is covered with a beautifully decorated curtain, often embroidered with a verse from the Bible or biblical imagery.
As the ark is opened the congregation sings biblical verses praising the Torah, such as “The law [Torah] will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). The Torah scroll is then taken out and handed to the person leading the service.
That person then slowly carries the Torah to a table in the center of the room. As the Torah makes its way through the synagogue, members of the congregation touch it, kiss it, and continue singing hymns of praise.
We read the Torah from the center of the room, rather than the front, to remind us of the original revelation at Mount Sinai. The voice of God was heard from the mountaintop, while the children of Israel surrounded Mount Sinai on all sides. According to Jewish tradition, every Torah reading is a reenactment, continuing the revelation at Mount Sinai.
Continuing the Revelation
We see this same idea expressed in this week’s Torah portion in the description of the Tabernacle, the original synagogue. We read, “On the day the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant law, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire.”
The verse refers to “the cloud” rather than “a cloud,” implying that this is a cloud we are familiar with, a cloud we’ve seen before.
The Jewish sages taught that when Bible says that “the cloud” covered the Tabernacle, it is referring to the same cloud that covered Mount Sinai when God spoke the Ten Commandments to all Israel (Exodus 19:16). That’s why the cloud “looked like fire.” This reminds us of the fire on the mountain as well (Exodus 19:18).
The message is powerful. Whenever we gather to worship God and to listen to His voice, we are continuing the revelation that began at Mount Sinai. When God spoke to the children of Israel that day, it was only the beginning.
We are still surrounding Sinai. We can still hear His voice. God’s revelation continues!
God gave the Bible to each and every one of us. Read your Bible and remember that God is speaking the words directly to you today, just as He did to the children of Israel thousands of years ago.