Looking Inward and Outward – A Pillar of Fire and Cloud

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As this week is a double Torah portion (Vayak’heil – P’kudei), it is only fitting that this Torah sketchnote be used for two purposes and have two inspiring interpretations behind it. This parsha concludes the book of Exodus with Exodus 40:38 which says

For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.

Rabbi Evan Krame (The Jewish Studio) is turning 60 and is hosting a Shabbaton.  Rabbi Evan and Rabbi Rachel Barenblat (Velveteen Rabbi) requested a sketch of this verse for the Shabbaton. They interpret the verse in two different ways, making it interesting to come to a single sketch.

Rabbi Evan says that “I read the verse through a modern lens.  To find G-d now we don’t look into the cloud or the fire as did Bnai Israel in the desert. Rather we look internally.  And the clouds that descend and keep us from moving forward our own limitations.  As I turn 60 one of the self imposed clouds I see is the sense of being “too old.” And if that cloud descends, people refrain from trying new things, pursuing new careers, and creating new relationships. I want that verse to represent my intent to lift the clouds that impede me from embracing the future and moving ahead.  That’s a combination of willpower, and psyche, and soul, lifting the clouds.” (read his full blog post here)

Whereas Rabbi Rachel says that “for me, what leaps out from this verse is the idea that G-d was in the cloud by day and the fire by night, and that the cloud and fire were visible in the eyes of all of the children of Israel in all of their journeyings. Connection with the Infinite is open to all of us: not just Moses and Aaron, but everyone, then and now. I think it was Rashi who said that even when they stayed put, that too was a “journey” — so too for us now. We can find G-d (or holiness or meaning or connection with something beyond ourselves) in all of our “journeyings” — as we walk the path of a lifetime, as we change and grow, in times of stillness and times of movement — and in our youth and in our maturity.”

One interprets inwards towards the self; the other outward toward the journey. Torah remains relevant today because every verse conveys a different lesson or message to each person who reads it.

Happy 60th birthday Rabbi Krame. May you lift the clouds around you and find G-d in your journeys.