We have discussed over the last several weeks the appearance of an angel. This is a clear sign of the presence of the shechina (Divine Presence). In our parshiyot, we see other signs of the shechina.
One of the signs is a special cloud. We learn about the fulfillment of the commandment to build the Mishkan and its vessels. At the end of the laining, it says: "The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of Hashem was filling the Mishkan. Moshe could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud was hovering over it, and the glory of Hashem was filling the Mishkan" (Shemot 40:34-35). These p’sukim are also parallel to those dealing with the story of David and the altar on the Temple Mount, which we discussed at length, as David was also unable to enter the place, albeit because of the angel’s sword (Divrei Hayamim I, 21:30).
Chazal (Bereishit Rabba 56:1) connected between the p’sukim in our parasha and those of akeidat Yitzchak. They posit that Hashem indicated to Avraham what the proper mountain was by attaching a cloud to its top. (It is noteworthy that when Chazal wanted to express the idea that the building of a Jewish home is equivalent to building a mini-Temple, they adopted the metaphor of a cloud over the couple’s tent.)
Such a cloud also descended on the Beit Hamikdash at the time of its inauguration by Shlomo Hamelech: "It was when the kohanim left the Sanctum and the cloud was filling the House of Hashem. And the kohanim were not able to stand and serve because of the cloud" (Melachim I, 8:10-11). Again, we find an intensity of shechina preventing entrance into a holy place at a formative time.
The other sign of shechina is fire. In Parashat Shemini, the pasuk relates: "Fire came out from before Hashem and consumed on the altar the burnt offering …" (Vayikra 9:24). The descent of fire appears also in the context of David and his altar on Mt. Moriah. The fire consuming David’s offerings (Divrei Hayamim I, 21:26) was a sign that David had achieved atonement with his actions. A similar divine sign was found in regard to the offerings of Shlomo at the inauguration of the Beit Hamikdash (Divrei Hayamim II, 7:1). Of course, there was also fire at the revelation of the Divine Presence at the giving of the Torah on Sinai. Likewise, a special fire and special clouds accompanied Bnei Yisrael in their sojourns in the desert.
(Let us point out that in describing the Divine Presence’s involvement in the Jewish family, the metaphor used is the cloud, which is the softer symbol of the shechina. We talk of fire in the context of the couple only when there is conflict. In the Mikdash, there is both a cloud and fire, corresponding to the joint elements of the divine attribute of chesed and fear.)
Let us pray that we will merit seeing many families with a "cloud over their tents" and seeing the Temple, upon which there was and will be divine clouds and fire.