Dwelling in God’s Rest
In times of crisis we pray, but we must also remember to play our divinely-appointed role
Sometimes it’s surprising how easily people are able to become accustomed to unusual circumstances. Living my life exclusively at home has become second nature. Interestingly, although I’m mostly inside and in one single place, I’m even more exhausted than when I’m normally out and about.
This is because we’re living under unnatural conditions that require greater efforts for remaining focused mentally on the work we have to do while avoiding the distractions of being home. Social distancing also takes a mental toll on people, which drains even more energy.
We have to make sure not to allow these conditions to lead us away from our spiritual health as well. Keeping with the weekly Torah portion can be difficult because of our focus on the crisis, our relations with our family or our mental health. However, as usual, this week’s portion is encouraging and refreshing.
“And so Moses finished the work”
Consider Exodus 40:33-38.
Let’s focus on the last sentence in verse 33, “And so Moses finished the work.” This work that has been completed is referring to the Tabernacle that was discussed in last week’s portion. In Hebrew, this is the same word that is used in Genesis when God finished creation and rested on the seventh day.
The creator must take time for rest from its creation. Here, to “finish” something does not mean that it ceases to exist and will not continue. Instead, it’s referring to a brief break in an occurring process. Since we are created in God’s image, we also must utilize these same recesses; a time of rest, reevaluation and rejuvenation of our spirits. This is exactly the situation we find ourselves in today.
Moreover, we’re in essence giving the world and nature a brief recess from humanity. While we’re seemingly stuck in our homes, nature is resting and rehabilitating from humanity’s constant presence. The trees and plants are now breathing the fresh air which has become less and less polluted since our isolation. Although this time of rest has been forced upon us, it appears that this is the natural way of the world since creation. Also, in nature, there is a time for rest, not just people.
In the Torah portion, it is clear that the people of Israel were in need of this time of rest. They were constantly occupied with their work, were often lamenting over their situation and their faith was becoming frail. At certain times, the people cried out begging to return to Egypt claiming that slavery was better than wandering in the desert. How often have we done that ourselves? We often forget the spiritual freedom that God has bestowed upon us because of us not taking periods of rest to reflect, not evaluating our lives and making sure that we are right with our creator.
This simply goes to show that we are often in need of God’s interjection in order to force us to stop what we are doing and rest. For example, as portrayed in Exodus, they were in need of the cloud that covered the Tabernacle as it was completely filled with the Lord’s glory. Sometimes we need God to intervene in this world and force us to be reminded of his glory and presence.
However, we also have an integral part to play. We must not place all of the responsibility on God to intervene, remind us and complete the transformation in us. We must be proactive and faithfully respond to the opportunity that has been generously given to us. We must reflect on our lives, rejuvenate ourselves and take hold of the purpose that God has given us at birth, strengthen our faith and our relationships. But this won’t happen unless we take action and utilize this period of rest. Soon the Tabernacle, or in our reality, the world in which we live today, will return to its vigorous routine. However, until then, we must take a step of faith and remind ourselves of our purpose and our value according to our creator.