The Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidim, told this story:

Once there was a lonely king who longed for his people to come close to him. But the people were too busy with their own lives and their work.

One day, the king had an idea. This king was an illusionist, who could make people see things that weren’t there. So he built an illusory castle and then invited all the people to come and find the king, who would be hidden in the castle. Whoever came to see the king in the castle would receive a large sum of money and be given a high rank in the king’s service.

The people liked the challenge and hurried to participate. But when they arrived they found the walls too high, the windows barred, and the gate locked. There was no way in! So one by one, the people gave up and went home.

One of the people who came was the king’s own son. He approached the wall and found no way in. He cried to his father, “Father, have pity on me! Don’t keep me away from you!” His father, the king, heard his son’s cries. Instantly he removed the walls and the father, the king, was right in front of the son, sitting on his majestic throne. Then the son realized that the obstacles were just an illusion and his father had been with him all the time.

The Ba’al Shem Tov went on to teach that, just like in the parable, there are no barriers between us and God.

Last week, this week, and in the next several weeks to come, we read of the Israelites following God’s commands to build a Mishkan, a sanctuary in the desert. This week, we will read about the Ner Tamid, the Eternal Flame, and the instructions for the priests. All of this is to establish a place to experience God’s presence in the midst of the camp.

In truth, God is always present. The tabernacle, the Eternal Flame, and all of the rules associated with them, were created as a comfort to the people who were looking for a physical representation of God. But there are no walls separating us from the Holy One. Like the people in the Ba’al Shem Tov’s story, we often think it is too hard to climb the metaphoric walls to find God. We give up.

The Kotzker Rebbe* asked, “Where is God to be found?” Answering his own question, he explained that “God is found wherever we let God in.” (*Menachem Mendel, know as the Kotzker Rebbe, 1787-1859, was a Hasidic rabbi from Poland.)

May this be a week of blessings and a Shabbat of peace,
Rabbi Debbie Israel