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Shemot/Exodus 40:2 In the day of the first month, in the first of the month, you shall raise up the tabernacle
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Moshe is told to erect the tabernacle himself, since he is the only person who has seen the vision of the heavenly tabernacle shown to him on Mt. Sinai - he alone knows the exact position and sequence of all the elements. Moreover, he is told to erect the tabernacle on the first day of the year, two weeks short of the first anniversary of the Exodus from Egypt and nine months since arriving at Sinai. The phrase "in the first month" ties up with the instructions given to Moshe before the Exodus itself: "This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you" (Shemot 12:2, NASB);Gersonides confirms: "Nisan makes more sense as the beginning of the year than does Tishrei, for at that time the sun moves closer to inhabited areas, plants and fruit are renewed and all life rejoices."
A recurring theme within Judaism is that of the lunar cycle being a reminder that repentance and renewal are always available. As the new moon faithfully re-appears each cycle, so man can always turn to G-d and experience a "new moon" in his spiritual life. Similarly, the waxing and waning of the moon is seen as a demonstration that just as G-d restores or revives the moon, so He will give revivals and restoration for the low points in our lives if we will turn to Him.Hirsch looks back to the Exodus, commenting that it was the new moon that hung in the sky to announce the birth of our people as a nation and our freedom from slavery in Egypt, starting the calendar, the year and the month. How appropriate, he continues, that the formal erection and inauguration of the tabernacle should be on the same new moon in the calendar, exactly one year later. "The new moon of the arising of the nation is to be also the new moon of the entry of the Shechina, the fulfillment of 'I will dwell among them' in which the natural redemption first finds its completion."
While Moshe was given the responsibility of raising the tabernacle for the first time, and the priests and Levites would pack, transport and re-assemble the tabernacle on a sometimes daily basis as our people travelled, this process was itself a sign of what G-d Himself was going to do with the people over the centuries that followed. As we moved into the Land, went through periods of rebellion and revival, through exile and return, so G-d Himself would pack up, move and then restore the people. So it continues to today, through two millennia of exile, expulsion, pogrom, interspersed with times of study, peace and prosperity until it is time to move on again. From the golden days of the Spanish era before the expulsion in 1492, to the yeshivot of Old Europe before the Shoar, the people of Israel have always been a sign to the nations of G-d's presence in the world. Neither is that process yet complete for G-d says, "'In that day I will raise up the fallen tabernacle of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name', declares the L-rd who does this" (Amos 9:11-12, NASB). This is to be both a physical action, with the partial and as yet imperfect restoration of Israel as a nation in its own land with Jerusalem as its capital, living in peace and harmony; it is also to be a spiritual action, then the nation turning to G-d on a perviously unimagined scale, restoring the spiritual fortunes of Israel declaring not a narrow exclusiveness but the glory of G-d to the world.
How do we know this is going to happen? How can we be sure that G-d is still interested? Because of the critical step in the process that we just skipped over. During His earthly ministry, Yeshua made it clear to the disciples what was going to happen to Him: "He began teaching them that the Son of Man had to endure much suffering and be rejected by the elders, the head cohanim and the Torah-teachers; and that He had to be put to death; but that after three days, He had to rise again. He spoke very plainly about it" (Mark 8:31-32, CJB). So widely known was this teaching that immediately after the crucifixion and Yeshua's burial, "the head cohanim and the P'rushim went together to Pilate and said, 'Sir, we remember that that deceiver said while He was still alive, "After three days I will be raised." Therefore, order that the grave be made secure until the third day; otherwise the talmidim may come, steal Him away and say to the people, "He was raised from the dead"; and the last deception will be worse than the first'" (Matthew 27:62-64, CJB). In spite of their precautions, of course, Yeshua did rise from the dead for Rav Sha'ul tells us: "He was raised on the third day, in accordance with what the Tanakh says; and He was seen by Kefa, then by the Twelve; and afterwards He was seen by more than five hundred brothers at one time, the majority of whom are still alive. Later He was seen by Ya'akov, then by all the emissaries; and last of all He was seen by me" (1 Corinthians 5:4-7, CJB). It is because He Himself rose from the dead that we can have faith in His promise to us: "Yes, this is the will of the Father: that all who see the Son and trust in Him should have eternal life, and that I should raise them up on the Last Day" (John 6:40, CJB). This promise is for us, for Israel and for all who believe in Him.
Further Study: Isaiah 60:1-3; Malachi 4:2
Application: Where have you put your trust? Are you trusting in the work of your hand, the building that you have erected by your own labour, or are you trusting in the promises of G-d, knowing that the building He erects will last forever?
© Jonathan Allen, 2008
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