Parshah Terumah תרומה (Exodus 25:1-27:19)
The nation of Israel is called upon to contribute 15 materials- gold, silver and copper; blue, purple and crimson wool; linen, goat hair, animal skins, acacia wood, olive oil, spices and precious stones- with which, as God says to Moses: “And they shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst.” (Ex. 25:8)
At the top of Mt. Sinai, Moses receives detailed instructions about how to construct this dwelling for God, in such a way that it can easily be taken apart, transported and reassembled in the different travels of the nation in the desert.
In the innermost room of the sanctuary, behind an artistically embroidered curtain, was the Ark containing the Tablets of the Law engraved with the Ten Commandments; on the lid of the Ark were two cherubim (angels) made of pure gold. In the outer room was the seven branched Menorah and the table for the show bread.
The three walls of the Sanctuary were made of 48 wooden planks, each of which was covered in gold and held up by a pair of silver blocks. The roof was made of three layers; (a) multicoloered linen and wool (b) a cover made of goat hair (c) a covering of animal skins. At the front of the Sanctuary there was an embroidered curtain held up by 5 posts.
A series of linen curtains held up by 60 wooden posts with silver hooks surrounded the Sanctuary and the copper Altar which were at the front. The curtains were reinforces with copper stakes.
As we can see, the contents of this parshah mainly talks about the intrinsic details of the construction of the Mishkan, the mobile Tabernacle that the Jews had built in the desert.
To tell the truth, this Reading could seem a bit arduous, due to the great number of details which it specifies. It is as if it were an instructions manual. And so we could ask the following question: Why do I need to know all this about the Tabernacle? What am I supposed to learn from this teaching?
We know that as a general rule, the Torah only mentions those things which serve as a lesson for all times. Which means that the fact that it tells us about the Mishkan in such detail, there is much to learn from it.
The key here is that each physical item in the Mishkan has its counterpart in our own lives, the private “Mishkan” each of us builds. The verse itself suggests this when the first instruction is given to the Jewish people on the Mishkan: “They shall make for Me a sanctuary and I shall dwell in them”. Why the change from singular to plural? Rabbi Ieshaia Horowitz (1558-1628), known as the Shalo explains that the verse does not say that God will dwell “within each” referring to the Mishkan, but says “among you” referring to the Mishkan that is within each one of us.
In this regard the teachings of the Hasidim are full of connections between intrinsic details of the Mishkan and content, and the personal Mishkan that we do in our lives.
Consider the Ark, for example, knowing that such an analysis could be applied to other elements in the Parshah. The Ark itself was made of wood. And the verse (Exodus 25:11) tells us: “And thou shalt make a layer of pure gold, inside and out.”
The Jews did so by building two outer layers of pure gold and the middle of acacia wood.
What does this teach us about our personal Mishkan?
We also have three layers. The inner dimension of the soul is “pure gold”. This is our “divine spark”, that part of our subconscious that can never be contaminated, such as gold, which is an inorganic element and unalterable.
Then comes a more visible part of our soul, our personality. Feelings, attitudes, moods … the part of us that is constantly fluctuating. Like wood, which can be exquisite and beautiful (our spiritual moments, ideals), or rotten (the moments filled with depression and negative desires).
Finally, there is our external ark, that visible to all our behavior. Ideally, this is gold.
There are two lessons here:
We recognize that the middle layer made of wood, has its dark moments. And that’s fine. However, we are instructed to control our temptations and show a bright gold. Despite what goes in, our actions are under jurisdiction.
Likewise we should never feel hypocritical when we do a good deed. Rather, it is the middle level, which is not our true essence; gold that shows on the outside simply reflects who we are in our deepest level.
This is just an example, there are countless more lessons to learn from the Ark design. The same applies to the other containers, as well as the entire design of the Mishkan. So you can see that with a little effort and study these verses can be understood, in fact, as if they speak directly to you.
Shabbat Shalom ~~~~~~~~ Mati
Read Torah from Around the World #260 de la WUPJ.
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