Parashat Terumah

Gifts Freely Given

By giving God our full presence we allow the possibility for intimate connection and for God to dwell within us.

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By the Way…

"Gold, silver, and copper." The metals are listed in descending order of their value. This, in turn, determines their use for various objects [furnishing the Tabernacle and its parts]; the closer the object is to the Holy of Holies, the more valuable the metal of which it is made. Iron is notably absent…because its utilization for more efficient weapons of death made it incompatible with the spiritual ends that the Sanctuary was intended to serve. (Nahum Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus)

A folk saying states, A fool gives and a wise man takes. This refers to a person who gives tzedakah. A fool who gives tzedakah thinks that he is giving, while a wise man who gives realizes that he is taking: He is the one who will benefit most by his action. (Rebbe David of Kotzk)

"That I may dwell [Hebrew, v'shachanti] among them." The verb is the one from which Shechinah, the rabbinic term for the Divine Presence, is derived. (The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, edited by J. H. Hertz, published by Soncino Press, London, 1950)

"And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them." Great is work, for even the Holy One, blessed be He, did not have the Divine Presence abide among Israel until they had worked." (Avot D'Rabbi Natan)

"That I may dwell among them." It says "among them" and not "in its midst" to teach you that each person must build the Sanctuary in his own heart; then God will dwell among them. The Kotzker was once asked, "Where is God?" And he replied, "Wherever they let him in." (Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Kotzk)

Your Guide

The late professor Nehama Leibowitz asks, "What prompted the divine command to build the Tabernacle?" Based on the commentaries above, what is your opinion?

Much fruitful commentary has been generated by the qualification offered in the text: that donations for the Sanctuary should come from those whose hearts so move them. Why do you think this is so?

This is also true of the oft-quoted words "Let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them" and the text's use of the words "among them" (i.e., the people), as opposed to "within it" (i.e., the Tabernacle). How do you interpret the significance of this wording?

D'var Torah

Do you remember the famous musical dialogue between Tevye and Golda in Fiddler on the Roof on the subject of love? Tevye asks, "Golda, do you love me?" And she responds, "Do I what?"
Can you imagine Golda and Tevye exchanging valentines? Hardly! Valentine's Day isn't exactly a Jewish holiday.

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Rabbi Maynard W. Bell

Rabbi Maynard W. Bell Emeritus, served as rabbi at Temple Solel in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona, for 25 years. He is the executive director of the Arizona chapter of the American Jewish Committee.