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Parshat Terumah – A Sanctuary?

Feb 19-25, 2023 Exodus 25:1-27:19

A Torah portion of this week:

The Parasha’s name, “Terumah”, means “sacrifice” and is found in Exodus 25:2. The people of Israel are called upon to contribute thirteen materials – gold, silver and copper; blue, purple and red-dyed wool; flax, goat hair, animal skins, wood, olive oil, spices and precious stones – of which G-d says to Moses, “They shall make for Me a Sanctuary, and I will dwell in the midst of them.”

For Noahides

וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם׃

They must make Me a sanctuary from these materials; when they do so, they must have the specific intention of thereby bringing holiness to these materials. The purpose of the sanctuary is so that I will dwell in their midst.

On Mount Sinai, Hashem gave the Torah, the 613 Mitzvot for the Jews and the 7 Mitzvot for the Noahides. This came from His Chesed, a gift to the world to enable a relationship with Him and create a healthy and liveable society. So let’s say “thank You”, do the mitzvot, and live a good life. Why is it necessary to build a Tabernacle and provide specific materials?

Why a Sanctuary?

Giving Torah does not automatically mean that the world had become a perfect place for Hashem to live in. Yes, the whole world was impressed, no bird made a sound, no cow bellowed, no lion roared…but the world had not automatically turned into a perfect world by giving Torah. The building of the sanctuary shows that people have to get actively involved to achieve that perfect world. They have to roll up their sleeves and they have to use specific materials.

Why specific materials?

Everyone gives what their heart tells them to. This shows that it is voluntary, no one is forced to give for a better world. But also that everyone can and may give what they are capable of. The Tanach mentions concrete physical materials, showing that everything in the world can be used for a sacred task, making everyday objects sacred objects. What is true of objects is also true of capacities. Every person has his own capacities by using his capacities for a holy purpose. As a result, thoughts become sacred thoughts, actions become sacred actions. In doing so, it does not matter what a person does. One is good with people, another is good with his head and can perform difficult thinking processes, yet another is good with his hands and performs many practical tasks. When everyone contributes their “material”, a sanctuary is created in which Hashem can dwell, and the world becomes a dwelling place for Him. Everyone can do their bit, give something, give chesed. After all, the world is founded on chesed.

Why does Hashem need a dwelling place?

But why does Hashem need a dwelling place, He is everywhere. It is not so much that HaShem needs a place, but that we need a physical dwelling place for Him. He is everywhere, but we are not yet able to see Him everywhere, because in our world His presence has not yet been fully revealed. Anyone who has been allowed to stand at the Western Wall to pray knows from experience that Hashem is easier to feel there than in any other place. How wonderful it must have been to stand at the Temple, to be able to worship Him there, and blessed we will be when we are soon allowed to go back up to Tsion, to the Third Temple.

In You!

So that I may dwell in their midst.

In their midst, in their hearts. In your heart is where He wants to dwell. When we serve Him with our hearts (with both inclinations), with all our deeds and all our words, when we try to use everything to serve Him, we make our hearts a Sanctuary.

For that, we can use all materials. A kind word to one’s neighbour makes the world a better place. Doing your job because you know that is a place where you will meet people you can connect with Hashem will make the world a better place. Doing the dishes because your wife is happy there

It will be a place where He can reveal Himself more and more, it will be a place where you can meet Him and learn to strengthen your bond, your faith and your trust in Him.

When your heart is a dwelling place for Hashem, the world will become a dwelling place for Him and we will soon have the Third Temple in our midst. And the World will be full of His Knowledge as the waters cover the seas.

By Angelique Sijbolts

Sources: Chabad: Terumah in een notendop, Kehot Chumash: Terumah.

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