Exodus 27:20 – 30:10
The ordination of Aaron and his sons into the priesthood is one of the high points of this Torah portion. In preparation, community artisans designed ornate garments, which were sewn together and decorated with gold, precious stones, and colorful fabrics. The celebration lasted for a week, throughout which sacrifices were made and a special altar was built at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, in the Presence of the Eternal.
For there I will meet with you, and there I will speak with you, and there I will meet with the Children of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by My Presence. I will sanctify the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and I will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. I will dwell amidst the Children of Israel and I will be God for them, and they may know that I am the Eternal One their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt to dwell in their midst. I am the Eternal One their God. (Exod. 29:42-46)
“I am the Eternal One…” These simple words are the first words of the Ten Commandments, and are repeated here and in dozens of other places in Torah. We read these words so often throughout the biblical text that I wonder if we can truly hear them. Can we truly know that these are not words pronounced by a deity outside of ourselves but rather, they are the words that we are to speak, they are the Truth that we are to know? “I am the Eternal One” that manifests as all the me’s and all the you’s, all the I am’s ever uttered, even though we all have confused our “I am” with the narrow thoughts of our conditioned separate sense of self.
Spirit is calling out to us from the Tent of Meeting, promising to greet us, longing to be remembered. This Tent is a space in consciousness, beyond the trappings of the ego, where our Divine Self awakens, yearning to be known. It is reaching out from within us, telling us that if we simply return to the inner space, simply come to dwell in the inner Tent, “I will meet with you… I will speak with you…” All we have to do is take the first steps toward the Tent of Meeting, for the Divine Itself is the energy that will draw us back, that will liberate us. God is the inner power that moves us to transcend, to free ourselves from the shackles of this separate sense of self. It is the force that brings us “out of the land of Egypt,” out of the confining narrow space of ego-bound consciousness, so that It could “dwell in [our] midst,” dwell within us, as the True Being that we come to realize is our being, our “I am.”
How are we to take these first steps? The image of this week’s Torah portion is that of an ordination. We are to know ourselves to be priests and priestesses. We are to consecrate ourselves to the sole desire to remember the One we are. And we are to engage in spiritual practices that support letting go of all our attachments, worldviews, partial truths, and certainties. This letting go is symbolized in our text by the image of the sacrifices. The way inward is, indeed, a process of shedding, of offering up. One after the other we surrender the multiple layers of our mistaken identity that have obscured the Divine Light within. One after the other we let go of our false beliefs and opinions as if we were to surrender one piece of clothing after another from the many layers accumulated over the years that both suffocate us and weigh us down. Ultimately, underneath it all, we will find our spirit dressed in the most beautiful priestly garments adorned with gold and precious stones, with “blue, purple, and crimson yarn, and… fine twisted linen” (Exod. 28:15).