In this week’s parashah, Terumah, the Torah describes two gold angels perched on top of the Ark of the Covenant. The angels are Cherubim; in popular culture we’re told to envision cute, chubby, baby-like angels, but the midrash tells us something quite different. Cherubim are fierce, and very protective of both their privacy, and their domain – we don’t want to run into them.
These Cherubim are both looking down at the Ark – they are there to protect it. In this protective stance, their wings spread over their heads, extending toward each other, almost, but not quite touching. God has told Moses that the Divine Voice will be heard in the space between the wings. Although we are afraid of them, we must overcome our fears and focus on the space between them.
God will speak from the empty space.
Today, our world seems short on empty spaces. It is filled with the things we inherit; the things we acquire; the things we build. Judaism does not view materialism as bad; it cautions us against creating tunnel vision around it. Wealth can trick us into thinking there is no emptiness in the world. The Torah reminds us that we are to seek the spaces in the world that seem empty, and recognize there is a holy moment inviting us in.
When the Sages talk of a Torah scroll, they describe the writing as ‘black fire on white fire’. There is no emptiness, there is no background, there are only invitations inward. God’s Voice can be heard from the space between the angels, a place we would have ignored, we would have thought it was empty.
The challenge of everyday is to recognize these places we previously ignored. The Torah this week invites us to listen closely, because we will hear something that beckons us. Whether it is someone in need of food, in need of a smile, or in need of eye contact, it will rarely be their voice that speaks to us, it will most often be their silence. But silence does not mean emptiness.
I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.