In the Ramban's preface to
he compares the Jewish people's sojourn in the desert to what took place at
. At Sinai, Hashem gave the Jewish people the mitzvah of
. They were told where they could stand in relation to the mountain. Moshe could ascend to the top but the Jewish people had to stay farther away. Hashem designated a place for each person. Whoever crossed their border would die. So too in the encampment in the desert, there were very clear borders where the Kohanim, Leviim, and the rest of the Jewish people were permitted to go. If a foreigner crossed over to a forbidden area the consequence was death.
When the order was given to travel in the desert, the
was dismantled and the vessels were covered so that no one should mistakenly look at them. If one did look at them, the punishment was death. We find the same concept at
. If the Jewish people would look where they were not supposed to, they would die. At
the Torah speaks about its sanctity and guarding it. So too the Leviim guarded the
. This connotes respect.
say that the palace of a king has guards showing the importance of the leader that resides there. Something that is precious we protect. The Ramban explains that guarding
means guarding it from any impurity that may come close to it. So too this is the deeper meaning of guarding the
staying away from any impurity that can endanger the presence of Hashem.
David Hamelech said, "
Mi yaleh b'har Hashem u'mi yakum b'mkom kodsho
." Climbing the mountain is not easy but making it an ongoing reality is harder.
was a one -time experience. The Divine Presence resting in the
and later in the
was an ongoing reality which was not as easy to maintain.
The comparison between
tells us something else. In principle the two experiences were the same. The
rested among the Jews. However at
it was in the open. Everybody could see it. It was also above their level. Hashem took the Jewish people out and elevated them beyond what they deserved in order to establish the foundation of Torah. At the time of the
the Divine Presence wasn't revealed to the same extent. It was contained which signified that Hashem was there but in a more hidden way. It was the job of the Jewish people to reveal it. To the extent that they developed their inner essence, to that extent they saw it on both a national and individual level. This idea still applies today. To the extent we guard ourselves from impurity and work to come closer to Hashem, to that extent we enable Hashem to dwell inside us.