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Terumah (offering)

Exodus 25:1 to 27:19, 1 Kings 5:26(12) to 6:13


This parasha begins with charity. The previous parasha was about using your money as your own possession.

After Leviticus 17:8-9, the Tabernacle becomes a place that allows atonement so God can relate to people safely. The issue is not being spiritually with God but being physically near God. From the earliest book of scripture, Job, onward it is clear that spiritual proximity to God happens through humility, not forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness of sins allows a physical proximity to a physically manifest God. (And freedom from sin allows an indwelling of God.)

Note that in Egypt the Israelites were involuntary builders. Now they are voluntary builders. Pharaoh dwelled in the places they made against their will. God will dwell among them (not just in the place) because nothing is built involuntarily. (Exodus 25:8, First Corinthians 6:19-20)

Werse 25:15 tells us that the poles used for carrying the ark were never to be removed from their rings. In that case, why were they not built as one piece? The sages offer a couple explanations, but my favorite is from A. Kruit, who points out that the those carrying the ark must then be careful it does not slide forward or backward while they carry it—you cannot be careless when responsible for carrying the seat of God.

Modern Jewish Commentary

Jeffrey E. Feinberg writes of U. Cassuto's A Commentary on the Book of Exodus (pg 323) that the Canaanite god El also had a mishkan (dwelling place for the Shekinah) with boards, pedestals, throne, footstool, lamp, and table. However, the Canaanite version was only celestial and had a chest for clothes and a bed. Adonai never sleeps and his mishkan was physically built and carried with the Israelites. How would this make the Canaanite's feel, to see what for their god was only spiritual being actually manifest among their enemies!? (The altar of incense, however, is described in the next parasha because it had no Canaanite equivalent. It is about priests and praise, which were utterly different from the Canaanite parallels.)

According to Jeffrey E. Feinberg the mishkan was erected in 2449, the first Temple was built from 2928 to 2935, and the first Temple was destroyed in 3388. So the dwelling that was supposed to be the more temporary actually was used longer! What does this say about God and the Israelites?

Traditional Jewish Commentary

Efraim Levine writes, "It is noteworthy that the Torah calls this structure by two names. It is called both a mishkan (Shemos 25:9) and a mikdash (Shemos 25:8). The commentators explain that each name represents a different function. When referring to HaShem's presence it was called a mishkan. The word mishkan means a dwelling place. The mishkan was the place where HaShem rested His Divine Presence in this world. From there it emanated to the rest of the world. On the other hand the name mikdash defines the perspective of the Jewish people. This word is translated as a "sanctuary." This word connotes that this structure was to be used by the Jewish people as a place to become close to HaShem."

The verb for "make" is always second person singular (v'asiyta) except in the instance of the ark, when it is third person plural (vasoo). R' Bechaye comments that this shows that everyone must participate in building a place for God and Torah. Imrei Noam and Baal HaTurim agree, and Rambam cites it too.

Tradition says the menorah was near the table to show you cannot worship if you are starving. Baal HaTurim comments that the letter sameh does not appear in the portion describing the menorah to show that Satan cannot appear where there is God's light. This is one reason women light candles on Erev Shabbat.

Tradition says the table represents the riches of This World and the menorah the riches of the World to Come.

The phrase Tikchu es Terumosi in verse 25:1 has tikchu (you shall take) in the plural, rather than the singular tikach, although the verse began in the singular ("Daber el B'nei Yisrael..." ). This is a hint, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that Tzedakah collections require two people (because people will suspect one collector of dishonest practices).

The Baal HaTurim comments that the word "menorah" happens 7 times in this parasha. He links this to the traditional 7 heavens and 7 continents, but to me it seems more about the mishkan being a perfect (i.e., 7) witness of God's light.