March 2, 2022


3.4.2022 Weekly Torah Portion

I vividly remember the moment my first sponsor spoke with me about “taking direction from Higher Power”.  New to recovery and desperate for serenity, I was listening carefully.  And while I understood the words that she was saying literally, I had no concept of what she was actually trying to communicate.  I could wrap my head around taking direction from another person, but taking direction from Higher Power?  How could I possibly figure out what Higher Power wanted me to do? 

At the very end of this week’s parasha, Pekudei, the Torah describes in a much more concrete way how the Jewish people would take God’s direction as they traveled through the wilderness, having left Egypt and set out for the Promised Land.  When Moses had put the finishing touches on the Tabernacle and the Tent of Meeting, God’s Presence filled the Tabernacle in the form of a cloud, a just-barely-tangible indication that a Power greater than their understanding was indeed dwelling with them.  This cloud provided them with literal direction as they traveled: “When the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the Israelites would set out on their various journeys, but if the cloud did not lift, they would not set out until such time as it did lift” (Exodus 40:36-37). 

On the one hand, God’s appearing as an actual visible presence, in the form of a cloud, sounds almost dreamlike, and not entirely plausible.  But on the other hand – especially as I compare the Israelites’ cloud to my own experience of taking direction from Higher Power – this God-cloud guidance seems almost like a smartphone map leading me through an unfamiliar city.  All I have to do is follow the prompts, and I’ll reach my destination.  Couldn’t my sponsor just give me my own personal cloud to follow, like the Israelites in the wilderness, as I move forward on my journey of recovery? 

As we know, it doesn’t quite work that way.  For me to follow a Higher Power of my understanding, I first need to have a relationship with that Power.  I need to find a way to connect to that Power, to express myself honestly through art, music, movement, acts of service, and words of prayer.  And I need to find a way to receive from that Power – to receive presence and companionship, love and support, and guidance through intuition or through teaching and direction from fellow humans walking their own spiritual path.  A sponsor can share their own experience of connecting and receiving; a sponsor can teach by example how to form a relationship with Higher Power.  Yet each person must form this relationship for themselves. 

As we celebrate Shabbat together this week, may we be drawn closer to God’s presence, just as the Israelites were drawn closer through their making the Tabernacle and Tent of Meeting.  May we explore new and creative ways to reach out to a God of our own understanding, speaking our truth to God honestly and courageously.  May we listen to our inner knowing, and may we also remember that God can share God’s messages with us through the presence, speech, and action of our fellow humans. 

Shabbat Shalom! 

Rabbi Miriam Green Potok