-Matthew 3:13-17 (NRSV)
And he set up the enclosure around the Tabernacle and the altar, and put up the screen for the gate of the enclosure. When Moses had finished the work, the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud had settled upon it and the Presence of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. 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. For over the Tabernacle a cloud of the Lord rested by day, and fire would appear in it by night, in the view of all the house of Israel throughout their journeys. -Exodus 40:33-38 (JPS Tanakh)
You're probably wondering what connects these two events, but I think they have a great deal in common and perhaps, they describe virtually the same act; the act of the divine dwelling among humanity. Let me explain.
Over lunch, I continued to read the commentary for Love and the Messianic Age by Paul Philip Levertoff. In the commentary (page 44), I found this:
In Romans 5:14, Paul says that Adam was "an impression of Him who was to come." That is to say that Adam was made in the image of Messiah. This teaching is very similar the esoteric idea of Adam Kadmon described above. Another connection in Jewish literature between Adam Kadmon and Messiah can be found by comparing two different versions of the same midrash on Genesis 1:2. Genesis Rabbah 2:4 (Soncino) states: " 'And the spirit of God hovered': this alludes to the spirit of Messiah"; whereas the same midrash in Midrash Tehillim 139:5 has (Braude) "the spirit of Adam."What instantly captured my attention about the quote were the words, "And the spirit of God hovered..." It immediately reminded me of the "something like a dove" sequence from the depictions of the baptism of Jesus in the four Gospels (not to mention the spirit of God hovering over the waters during Creation).
I remember being in a Bible study once and we were discussing why the spirit was described as "something like a dove". One of the people there said that a dove in flight tends to flutter side to side as it descends; sort of how you see a feather or a sheet of paper fall when it descends from a significant height. The object can seem to "hover" as it comes down.
I have no idea if that describes what actually happened as the "dove" came down upon the Master, but that scene, along with what I've been reading in the commentary on Levertoff, made me consider what it is about the Messiah that makes him Divine.
This is especially relevant to my recent investigations (including book reviews) of the deity of Christ. The Christian explanations I've read thus far supporting the deity haven't been very satisfying but I wonder if the concept of the "Shechinah becoming flesh and dwelling among us" (John 1:14, my interpretation) might not fit better. After all, we have a series of precedents in the Bible relative to the Divine Presence and both the Tabernacle and Solomon's Temple. The Divine Presence inhabited them, and though they didn't literally "become" God, they contained a special essence of the Divine.
I don't state this as an answer, but simply offer it for consideration (and I know it's full of trap doors). The commentary on Levertoff's teaching states that, in Jewish mysticism, it is believed that the totality of God cannot be actively perceived by humans. At any point where people have perceived God in any way (cloud on top of Sinai, Moses seeing God's back but not his face), God has chosen to "humble" or "condense" Himself into an essence that is detectable by people.
What if that's what happened when "the Word became flesh?"
"A Jew never gives up. We're here to bring Mashiach, we will settle for nothing less." -Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh
The road is long and often, we travel in the dark.