Exodus 25:1 – 27:19

Here are some general thoughts on the parashat Terumah

In this Torah Portion we find the call for the building of the Mishkan (משׁכן, Tabernacle). In the opening line we hear Hashem speaking to Moshe:

“Speak to the Children of Israel and let them take for Me a portion (terumah, תרומה), from every man whose heart motivates him you shall take My portion.”

I believe this is they key phrase for understanding this parashah, as well as the entire building of the Mishkan.

Here we find Hashem desiring something to come into existence — the Mishkan, the place where He will meet with His people. It is to be a holy place, a place like none other. It is to be a place of perfection that will emulate the Heavenly courts (see the book of Hebrews & Midrash Rabba) in as many aspects as humanly possible. So, the question is, why did Hashem not create this edifice Himself? Why did He have man build it, rather than saying, “Let there be the mishkan!” Why did he use human agents to create such a reflection of the heavenlies?

I think there are several reasons for this. The first being that since the creation of mankind, Hashem has used man to accomplish His will on this earth. Instead of doing everything on His own, He has chosen to enter into “partnership” with man in achieving His purposes. We have a role to play in the work of the Malchut (Kingdom), and we need to be about it.

Secondly, with an entire nation coming together for the common purpose of building a dwelling place for their Redeemer, they have a common purpose. This effectively builds community. They have to rub shoulders, work side-by-side, communicate and forgive. They had to build relationships. They had to build trust. They had to be vulnerable. If this massive structure were to ever be completed, it would require the cooperation of many thousands of people. Without a common purpose and without communication, community cannot effectively be cultivated. Hashem knew this in His plan for the construction of the Mishkan.

Lastly, they had to make a personal investment. They had to invest not only their resources, but their time. And it wasn’t forced on them. Remember the words, “from every man whose heart motivates him”? Hashem didn’t coerce those who didn’t want to participate. However, there were benefits for those who chose to do so. Let me give you an example.

How did you get your first vehicle? Did you work to earn the money to purchase it, or was it given to you? From whichever perspective you came from, have you noticed the other perspective? Generally, those to whom things of great value are given, versus earned are treated with less value than they are actually worth. Why? Because the person receiving them hasn’t seen the value in the object due to their lack of investment. Here’s another example. Have you ever built a house? If so, you probably would have a much harder time selling it than a pre-existing house that you merely purchased. Why? Because you have invested blood, sweat and tears into it. We can appreciate much more what we have made an investment into.

The same is true with relationships. While we would be hurt if we lost a casual friend, we would be in great mourning at the loss of a spouse or child or sibling. Why? Because of our investment. We have poured our lives into these lives, and our investment is great. This is what makes us vulnerable, risking the deep hurt that comes with that loss. But is also what makes us better. Intimate relationships make us smooth where we are rough, lighter when we are heavy, stronger when we are weak. Like a shared glass of wine, they make it twice as enjoyable if it is good, and half as bad when it is distasteful. Life was meant to be shared. Begin sharing it with someone today.

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