All the ancient Israelites really wanted was some visible sign of Gods constant presence in their midst, but the anxiety, restlessness and fear that Moses apparent disappearance on Mount Sinai generated among them plunged ancient Israel into what is regarded as its darkest hour.
Seemingly abandoned and alone somewhere in the wilderness, panic ensued among them, and the ancient Israelites set about casting their own tangible sign of the presence of God in their midst in the form of a golden calf that has left extremely deep scars on its memory ever since.
What we sometimes fail to notice in the text, however, is that virtually at the same time and high atop Mount Sinai, Moses actually beseeched God for exactly the same thing.
Separated from his people, Moses pleaded to God, Show me, I pray thee, thy glory!
God responded, Thou canst not see my face, guiding Moses to a cleft in the rock where he then allowed the very visible fullness of his glory to pass by.
These two separate, but connected, incidents clearly indicate that this yearning for some constant, visible token of Gods presence in our lives is part and parcel of human nature, and the numerous houses of worship throughout our Middle Georgia communities are our own tangible and visible signs of the presence of God in our very midst.
The reason that ancient Israels reconciliation with God came so quickly following this mortifying incident is precisely because this need is so very quintessential within us.
Today in synagogues throughout the world, the prescribed passage that is read from Scripture recounts that shortly after Moses descended from the Gods holy mountain the second time, God instructed Moses to assemble all of the people, instructing them to go ahead and build a visible sanctuary that would serve as Gods dwelling place here on Earth.
For their part, the ancient Israelites responded enthusiastically by bringing their offerings of gold, silver and copper, exquisite yarns and fine linens, animal skins, wood, oils and stones that were to be used in the building of this tabernacle that would provide them the necessary assurance that Gods presence did, in fact, continually abide with and among them.
Once complete, the tabernacle occupied a central position both physically and spiritually in the midst of the Israelites, and it served as their very tangible worship center and ever-present abode of Gods very presence.
Moreover, their tabernacle was a palpable sign to the world that God had indeed forgiven the children of Israel for the sin of the golden calf, and it was very visible proof to the Israelites that even if they sinned, God would not abandon them.
But perhaps most important of all, this tabernacle was Gods own expression of his great love for his world and humankind to which he descended and among whom he actually dwelt here below.
Our own houses of worship right here in Middle Georgia are really no different at all. For while we may be living in this far away place more than 3,000 years later, each of our own worship structures constitutes that same visible token of the presence and dwelling of God among us, too.
For truly if there is any bond strong enough to chain heaven to earth today, it is certain to be found in our own hallowed spaces that we, like the Israelites of old, deem to be sacred.
Rabbi Larry Schlesinger serves Temple Beth Israel in Macon.