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Weekly Torah Portion: A Meeting with God

Miriam Shechter took this shot of Simchat Torah dancing with the Torah scrolls which is similar to the dancing at a Jewish wedding to emphasize a main theme of the holiday, that our relationship with God is comparable to the relationship between a husband and wife. We are married to God and to His holy Torah.

The holidays are a time for the Children of Israel to meet with God. [Photo: Miriam Schechter]


This week’s portion begins with the end of Exodus Chapter 27 and includes the instructions for Aaron and the priests in their worship roles — their clothes, the sanctification process they will go through, and some instruction regarding the altar, the incense altar and the “tent of meeting.”  It is the instruction with regard to this “tent” that I would like to focus on.

In discussing the regular daily sacrifice, Scripture refers to the place where it will be brought:

At the entrance of the ‘tent of meeting’ before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. (Exodus 29:43-44)

I have purposely placed the words tent of meeting’ in quotations, because it is the translation of these words that I want to discuss.

The actual Hebrew words for tent of meeting are “Ohel Moed.”  Ohel means tent and Moed usually means time.  In fact, it is this same word that is used to introduce the festivals of God in Leviticus 23:4: “These are the appointed times* of the Lord, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them.”  In essence, however, the word “moed” has been used to refer to the holidays and is interchangeable with the word for festival or feast. From the verse in Leviticus, therefore, we see that the word Moed really means time, but it is used to refer to festivals.

In the scripture in our portion, however, the word is also used to denote meeting, as the end of verse 42 and verse 43 make clear, for the words for meeting, come from the same root as moed.

ShabbatShalom-withSandra-600WIDE

Clearly, then, there is a connection between these words — meeting, time and festival.  And the whole concept of “Ohel Moed” or the tent of meeting, encompasses all of these meanings. 

Ohel Moed is in the Tabernacle and it is the place where God and the Jewish people meet. It is where God speaks to Moses, and it is where sacrifices are brought to God by the priests on behalf of the people of Israel.  These sacrifices are brought at specified times.  And the festivals occur at specified dates and times.

Meeting God, it seems, is intimately involved with time.  It is not a chance meeting, but one that is determined by God, according to His time and at the place of His choosing.  In fact, the word meeting itself is a word that tends to denote time, place and connectedness between two people.  In this case, meeting God refers to time (at His choosing, or during the festivals), place (Tabernacle) and connectedness (meeting between God and His people.)

Interestingly, the word Moed, or festival, has also been adopted to refer to the newly created holiday of Israel Independence day.  On that holiday, we greet each other with the traditional greeting of “Happy Moed” or happy holiday.  In doing so, perhaps we recognize that the creation of the State of Israel was not just a happy occasion, but an occasion where God and His people meet — on the holy ground of the Land of Israel, where we walk together, God and His people, through miraculous occurrences towards the ultimate Redemption. 

What an amazing thought contained in just one word!

* The translation actually uses the word “feasts” here but it misses the literal translation of the word “moed” in the singular or “moadim” in the plural, which literally means times.

— Excerpt taken from Shabbat Shalom by Sondra Oster Baras.

Sondra Oster Baras was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio in an Orthodox Jewish home. Upon completing her B.A. from Barnard, she obtained her J.D. at Columbia University’s School of Law. A longtime resident of Samaria, in 1998 she opened the Israel office of Christian Friends of Israeli Communities.

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