Bar-Ilan University's Parashat Hashavua Study Center
Lectures on the weekly Torah reading by the faculty
of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel.
A project of the Faculty of Jewish Studies,
Paul and Helene Shulman Basic Jewish Studies Center,
and the Office of the Campus Rabbi. Published on the Internet
under the sponsorship of Bar-Ilan University's
International Center for Jewish Identity.
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Publication by the Center for IT & IS Staff at Bar-Ilan University.
Inquiries and comments to:
Dr. Isaac Gottlieb, Department of Bible,
Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei 5761/ March 24, 2001- Parashat
A. The Clouds of Glory and the Tabernacle
Dr. Aviezer Yisraeli
Two festivals were established in commemoration of the exodus from Egypt:
the spring festival, namely Passover, which is celebrated in the season when the
Israelites left Egypt; and the festival of Booths, or Sukkot, in which the
Israelites dwelled in the desert, which we celebrate in the fall. Ostensibly
the date for the festival of Sukkot is not connected with events of the exodus
from Egypt. One of the commonly given explanations is that if the commandment
to dwell in the Sukkah were fulfilled in the spring, when the exodus took place,
the festival would not have had much impact. For in the spring and summer
people generally make themselves booths for shade, and therefore building a
sukkah would not have been acknowledged as a commandment of the Creator.
Therefore Sukkot was set in the fall, at the time of year when people generally
leave their booths and return to dwell in their homes (Tur, Orah Hayyim
725). Still, this generally accepted argument does not explain why the
fifteenth of Tishre was chosen as the date for the festival of
All the festivals that appear in the Bible are mentioned in conjunction
with an historic date. Passover takes place on the date of the exodus from
Egypt, Shavuot takes place forty-nine days after Passover, and is also known as
the festival of receiving the Torah. Rosh ha-Shanah indeed is called in
Scripture a day of commemoration, but it is generally accepted that this was the
day of Creation, as we note in our prayers on Rosh ha-Shanah. The Day of
Atonement is the day on which the sin of the golden calf was forgiven, the day
Moses descended from Sinai after the Lord had said, "I pardon, as you have
asked" (Num. 14:20).
Sukkot commemorates the Israelites' dwelling in booths in the
wilderness, as it is written, "I made the Israelite people live in booths
when I brought them out of the land of Egypt" (Lev. 23:43). Rabbi Eliezer
and Rabbi Akiva differed regarding the question of what exactly were these
sukkot or booths: "For it is taught, 'I made the Israelite
people live in booths' - Rabbi Eliezer says these were the Clouds of
Glory. Rabbi Akiva says they made themselves actual booths"
Rabbi Akiva's opinion was more broadly accepted. Commentators such
as Rashi quote only his view, and the Shulhan Arukh concurs. Nevertheless,
there are many arguments for preferring Rabbi Eliezer's
but it seems that the best explanation
is related to the answer as to why Sukkot falls precisely on the fifteenth of
Identifying Rosh ha-Shanah as the day on which the world was created is
actually the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer in his disagreement with Rabbi Joshua.
Rabbi Eliezer said that the world was created in Tishre, whereas Rabbi Joshua
said in Nissan.
In other words, the
juxtaposition of Rosh ha-Shanah to an historical event follows the opinion of
Rabbi Eliezer; therefore, it is reasonable to look for an historical event
associated with Sukkot in what he says. The author of Divrei Eliyahu
finds this connection in the Torah sections that we have been reading these
When the Israelites made the golden calf the Clouds of Glory disappeared,
not to return until they began building the Tabernacle. Moses descended from
Mount Sinai on the Day of Atonement with the tidings that the Lord had forgiven
them the sin of the golden calf. The following day, on the 11th of
Tishre, "Moses then convoked the whole Israelite community" (Ex.
35:1) and commanded them concerning contributions for the Tabernacle. The
people brought their contributions on the 12th and 13th of
Tishre, according to the midrash in Numbers Rabbah (ch. 12): "For
two mornings they brought every freewill offering, as it is said, 'these
continued to bring freewill offerings to him morning after morning' (Ex.
36:3)." After these two days Moses ordered "this proclamation made
throughout the camp: 'Let no man or woman make further effort toward
gifts for the sanctuary!' So the people stopped bringing" (Ex.
36:6). In other words, Moses gave this order on the 14th of Tishre.
On the 15th they began building the Tabernacle, and then the Divine
Presence returned to dwell in their midst. It was then that the Clouds of Glory
returned. Therefore we were commanded to celebrate the festival of Sukkot on
the 15th of Tishre, the day on which the Israelites were rewarded by
the return of the Clouds of Glory.
Thus Rabbi Eliezer's opinion is reinforced, for both Rosh ha-Shanah
and Sukkot are associated with historical events: on Rosh ha-Shanah the world
was created, and on Sukkot, which falls on the 15th of Tishre, the
Israelite people had the privilege of dwelling under the wings of the Divine
Presence, in Sukkot, which are the Clouds of Glory. [Editor's note: see
Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei, "The Glory of the Lord"]
See the article by Rabbi Neriah Guttel,
Daf Shavua no. 307.
Genesis Rabbah, Ch. 22.
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