Project Genesis

Basics of Judaism

G-d and Torah

The Divine Presence Among the Jewish People

Question: I heard that the Divine Presence completely lifted from the Jewish people after they crossed the Jordon. Did it leave gradually? Did Moshe Rabbeinu (Our teacher Moses) impact this? 

Answer: Hi! Thanks for your really interesting question. If you’re asking about the “Ananei HaKovod”, the Clouds of Glory, I haven’t been able to find out the answer, though I’m still looking. Our sages say that they vanished when Aaron, the High Priest and Moshe’s brother, died, but that Moshe was able to bring them back in his merit. But after that? Did they vanish when he died? The Talmud says that Israel continued to eat the Manna after Moshe’s death for another month or so, until they had crossed into the land of Israel and were beginning to eat from the produce of the land. But about the Clouds of Glory I haven’t found an explicit source.

But if you’re asking about the Divine Presence, so to speak – well, for sure that never left at all. They were moving into another phase of their existence, one more built around the laws of nature and less around the miraculous, but Hashem’s presence was still with them. And there was still one special place, the Mishkan (the tabernacle), where the miraculous still had its place as well, and which operated entirely beyond the laws of nature.

Even when the Holy Temple was destroyed hundreds of years later, our sages say that the Divine Presence went into exile with his people, and is with them still.

Best wishes,
Michoel Reach

Question: Thank you Rabbi Reach for a most thorough response!  Did the Jewish people have any resistance moving into this new phase of their existence, from miraculous to more natural? Wasn’t this an issue with the Spies? 

Answer: Hi! Thanks for the follow-up. I definitely see this difficulty in making the transition as being one of the most important themes of this part of the Book of Numbers. They sat at Mt. Sinai peacefully for a year. The minute they started to move towards the Land of Israel, Boom! One disaster after another, back to back. And as you say, some explain the spies this way, some explain the demand for meat this way, and Moshe’s hitting the rock instead of a more subtle approach… As the Maggid of Dubno said to the Gaon of Vilna, it can be quite a trick to deal with the world outside the Beis Midrash (The Torah Study Hall). Hashem knows the best path for each of us, but people can be afraid nevertheless.

Best wishes,
Michoel Reach

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