Ashreinu! G-d among us


There are two well-known verses in Shemot that express the concept of Hashem’s dwelling among the Jewish people. The first instance appears in last week’s parasha, “And they shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell (v’shachanti) in their midst,” and the second in our Torah portion, Tetzaveh, “I will dwell (v’shachanti) in the midst of the children of Israel and I will be their G-d (v’hayiti lahem l’Elokim)” (25:8 and 29:45).

The first pasuk presents the idea of Hashem’s dwelling amongst us as a result of our constructing the Mishkan, and the second adds the notion that based upon His dwelling amongst us, He will be our G-d. Taken in tandem, the following formula emerges: Construction of the Mishkan results in v’shachanti in our midst, which leads to v’hayiti lahem l’Elokim. 

Although they initially appear to convey similar content, v’shachanti and v’hayiti lahem l’Elokim are dissimilar concepts, indicated by their phrasing. This approach was followed by both the Sforno and the Ha’emek Davar in their respective commentaries on Shemot 29:45.

According to the Sforno, v’shachanti refers to Hashem’s ready desire to accept our prayers and our avodah. In contrast, v’hayiti lahem l’Elokim does not refer to the content of what Hashem will accept, but rather that He will do so bikvodo ub’atzmo — without any go-between. This is similar to the manner in which He took us out from Egypt: “Not through the efforts of an angel, not through the exertions of a ministering angel, and not as a result of a messenger — but solely by the Holy One blessed be He, in His honor and glory” (Haggadah).

The Ha’emek Davar differs from the Sforno by suggesting that “v’shachanti in our midst” denotes an everlasting connection between the Almighty and the Jewish people:

“Even in the absence of the Mishkan, where Hashem’s glory was explicitly manifest, [Hashem] will continue to ever be in the midst of the Jewish people. This means that His Presence will never depart from the community of Israel … even though it will not appear manifestly evident to all.”

In addition, he takes a different tact from the Sforno in his explanation of the second phrase, “v’hayiti lahem l’Elokim,” as signifying that Hashem is continually attuned to and “watchful of our needs and will fulfill them.”

Whether we follow the Sforno or the Ha’emek Davar, both agree that v’shachanti and v’hayiti lahem l’Elokim refer to Hashem’s commitment to an eternal personal relationship with the Jewish people.

In my view, this is the counterpoint to our passionate song at the Yam Suf: “This is my G-d, and I will ever praise Him, the G-d of my father, and I will exalt Him” (Shemot 15:2). We were G-d-intoxicated at the Yam Suf, and could not hold ourselves from bursting out in a song of everlasting love. Now, so to speak, it was Hashem’s turn to proclaim His never-ending love for the Jewish people.

We can now better understand a celebrated phrase that we joyfully proclaim each morning: “Ashreinu mah tov chelkeinu, u’mah na’im goraleinu, u’mah yafah yerushateinu!” (“We are overjoyed in the goodliness of our portion! And how pleasing is our fate! And how desirous is our inheritance!”) 

In my estimation, the terms portion, fate and inheritance refer to our holy Torah and the dynamic relationship we share with Hashem. For truly, zeh Keli v’anvehu and v’shachanti v’hayiti lahem l’Elokim!

With Hashem’s help, may we ever be able to appreciate the depth and beauty of this unique relationship.