At the beginning of our parashah we read the following request from God to Moses: “Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts (t’rumah); you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart is so moved. V’asu li mikdash v’shachanti b’tocham. Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.”
But, wait a minute, does God need a sanctuary in order to dwell among the people? After all, does the God who created the universe and split the sea need a human-made dwelling place?
Pinchas H. Peli – a contemporary Torah commentator – offered the following idea: “Besides the immediate purpose of the campaign, to collect materials for the building of a sanctuary, it also serves an educational purpose: to convert the people from passive participants in their relationship with the Lord, as constant recipients of His gifts, into active partners”. In other words, what God is saying with his request is that some human effort is required if the people want God to be among them. The in-dwelling of God among the people cannot take place as long as the people are passive and do nothing to help bring the sacred into the world. As magnificent as some of our sanctuaries are, and as inspiring as our places of worship are– and our new Synagogue will be both of those— we still understand that it is not the place where we find God. The physical space is but one tool, one means of reaching the sacred.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) taught that “Judaism is not a religion of space. To put it sharply,” he wrote, “it is better to have prayer without a synagogue – than a synagogue without prayer.” The real Mishkan (tabernacle) is the inner chambers of the praying heart. If we are truly engaged in offering our innermost selves to God, only then God will dwell “among us.” Meir Leibush ben Yechiel Michel, a 19th Century rabbi comes to the same conclusion. He chose to read v’shachanti b’tocham, “I will dwell among them” as “I will dwell within them.” He wrote: “. . . in them, the people, not in it, the sanctuary. We are each to build a Tabernacle in our own heart for God to dwell in.”
We understand that we must be active participants in our relationship with God; that we must do something, bring something, in order for God to dwell in our midst. We know that ultimately the most sacred dwelling place for God is within our own hearts. We offer, from our hearts, to bring God into our hearts. These are the gifts . . . from us and from God.
Shabbat Shalom Rabbi Adrian M Schell (Source: reformjudaism.org)
Shabbat Terumah: Exodus 25:1-27:19 (Ex 25:13-39)
Haftarah: I Kings 5:26-6:13
In our Torah Portion: • God asks the Children of Israel to donate gifts (t’rumah) for the building of the Tabernacle so that God may “dwell among them.” • Moses receives Instructions for the construction of the Ark, table, and menorah are provided. • And Moses receives Detailed directions on how to build the
Tabernacle, the first sanctuary.