Parashat Terumah

Is God Present in Our Consumption?

We are given God's world and the material within to construct a house for God--one of peace, harmony, and sustainability.

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The world's resources are not here so that we may construct false gods which cater to our wants and desires. The moment that we misuse the physical and degrade the planet, we go against the spirit of the wooden Sanctuary God commanded.

We must ask ourselves: "Is God present in our consumption?" If so, then even the most ostentatious and elaborate materials that were used in the construction of the Mishkan are warranted. But if we have no awareness of our actions, and our consumption is a product of the pursuit of golden and flashy gods of consumer society, then we have not created a dwelling place for God in our actions or in the world.

Let us be blessed with the wisdom and foresight of our forefather Jacob to provide sustainable and justified coexistence with the small remainder of God's forests, and let us establish an awareness of the preciousness that pervades our natural world.

By doing so, we will herald in a new era of human consciousness, and God will build the Third Temple as a testament to our efforts. As the prophet Isaiah said, "I will give in the desert cedars, acacia trees, all kinds of civilization. Even in them will I give all kinds of wisdom, goodness, and peace… In order that they see and know, and pay attention and understand together that the hand of the Lord did this and the Holy One of Israel created it (Isaiah 41:19-20)."

Suggested Action Items:

1. Seriously limit your intake of meat as part of your commitment to avoid deforestation and other environmental "folly." If and when you do buy meat, choose locally produced, organic meat from a source you trust.

2. Before buying something new, stop and consider why you are buying it. If it is for a holy purpose, go ahead. If it is to fill a void that might not be God-focused, think about choosing not to buy it.

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Ariel Shalem is studying for rabbinic ordination at the Bat Ayin Yeshiva in Israel's Judean Hills.