5 Minute Torah – Terumah

5 Minute Torah

Terumah (“Portion”)
Shemot / Exodus 25:1-27:19

“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.” (Exodus 21:24-25)

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:

I believe this is they key phrase for understanding this parasha, 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 (cf. the book of Hebrews, Midrash Rabba, et al.) 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 an important reflection of the heavenlies?

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5 Minute Torah – Mishpatim

5 Minute Torah

Mishpatim (“Laws/Ordinances”)
Shemot / Exodus 21:1-24:18

“…and eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot; a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a bruise for a bruise.” (Exodus 21:24-25)

Probably one of the most frequently quoted, yet misapplied and misunderstood texts of the Torah would be the above text from our parashah. Those who do not study nor understand the Torah often site this passage as a justification of their misunderstanding of the justice of Hashem. They often pivot Hashem’s attribute of justice–as cursorily seen in the Hebrew Scriptures (the “Old Testament”)–against a cursory reading of the “grace” of the Apostolic Scriptures (the “New Testament”). In short, this passage is often used to place the God of the OT at odds with the one of the NT. The God of the OT is seen as cruel and vengeful. Yet the picture of Him in the NT is heavily skewed with mercy and grace (despite the numerous accounts of wrath and judgment found within the NT, particularly within Revelation).

These concepts, however, are based on false assumptions. We know that Hashem is both just and merciful throughout the canon of Scripture, and that there is no wavering on His part. But how should we understand our text, especially when juxtaposed against the teaching of the Master in Matthew 5 Continue reading “5 Minute Torah – Mishpatim”

5 Minute Torah – Va’eira

5 Minute Torah

Va’eira (“And I Appeared”)
Shemot / Exodus 6:1-9:35

G-d spoke to Moshe and said to him, “I am Hashem (יהוה). I appeared (וארא)” to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai, but with my Name Hashem (יהוה) I did not make Myself known to them. (Exodus 6:1)

This week’s parasha is the central passage around which the Pesach (Passover) revolves. It contains the Four (or five, depending on how you read it) Expressions of Redemption:

  1. I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt (Exodus 6:6a)
  2. I shall rescue you from their service (Exodus 6:6b)
  3. I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments (Exodus 6:6c)
  4. I shall take you to Me for a people and I shall be a G-d to you. (Exodus 6:7)

And as a reminder, these four expressions correspond to the four cups of wine of the Passover:

  1. Cup of Sanctification
  2. Cup of Judgement
  3. Cup of Redemption
  4. Cup of Praise/Cup of The Kingdom

The interesting thing about this week’s parasha, however, is the apparent contradiction of our opening passage with previous passages. Our passage states matter-of-factly, that Hashem has never revealed His Name (יהוה/YHVH) to anyone until this event. Breisheet (Genesis), however, says differently. Not only is His Name used repeatedly, beginning with the second chapter of Breisheet (Genesis 2:4), Abraham specifically calls on Hashem by Name:

…and he (Abraham) built there an altar to Hashem (יהוה) and invoked Hashem (יהוה) by Name. (Exodus 12:8)

The Hebrew is explicit. It states:

וַיִּקְרָא בְּשֵׁם יְהוָֽה

Literally, “And he called on The Name of Hashem (יהוה).” So, how can our text make the claim that “with my Name Hashem (יהוה) I did not make Myself known to them (the Patriarchs)”? How can Hashem say He has not revealed His name to the patriarchs, when the text seems to say otherwise? This is where we have to understand Hebrew thought.

In a nutshell, here is the situation. Scripture tells us that Hashem reveals Himself to those who seek Him. He is a stumbling block to some and a foundation stone to others. His words have to be studied and understood, because His Word(s) separate even the bone from the marrow. In cases such as these, they separate the seeker from the scorner.

Previously Hashem had only revealed Himself to the Patriarchs as El Shaddai. Why? Because He was their provision. El Shaddai, basically means “G-d of Sustenance/Provision.” He had proven His faithful provision to them many times, even to the extreme example of giving Isaac to Abraham on two occasions (remember the Akeidah/binding of Isaac?). However, He had also made covenants and promises to the Patriarchs which were still unfulfilled. Therefore, as Adonai (יהוה), the faithful, covenant-keeping Judge (also in the sense of “Redeemer/Deliverer”) He was finally able to reveal Himself during the time of Moshe. After hundreds of years, the Children of Israel were able to see the revelation of Adonai as the covenant-keeping, faithful Judge they knew Him to be. They were finally able to partake in the promises made to their ancestors hundreds of years prior.

May we never forget that we serve a living G-d, who has revealed Himself to us as both El Shaddai and Adonai (יהוה). We have nothing to lack, and no reason to not know the greatness of our Living and Eternal King.

5 Minute Torah – Shemot

5 Minute Torah

Shemot (“Names”)
Shemot / Exodus 1:1-Exodus 6:1

“And these are the names of the Children of Israel who were coming into Egypt…The Children of Israel were fruitful, teemed, increased and became strong—very much so; and the land became filled with them.” (Exodus 1:1,7)

As with a good number of the parashot, Shemot begins with the letter ו (vav). In Hebrew, a vav is a letter added to the beginning of a word to represent the conjunction “and.” Our parasha begins “And these are the names (shemot / שמות)…” This statement connects the current parasha with the previous one. But the vav is the connector. It connects the previous thought to a new thought. In this case it connects the previous parasha to the current one. But not only does it connect one parasha to the next, it connects one generation to another. But not only does it connect one generation to another, but it connects despair to hope.

“Chazak! Chazak! Venitchazeik!”

Last week was the first time we have spoken these words for this Torah cycle. They are spoken at the end of each book of Torah as a transition from one book to the next. They mean “Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened!” I find it fitting that these words connect the last words of Breisheet with the first words of Shemot. They connect the bitter ending of Breisheet with the optimistic introduction of Shemot.

Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; they embalmed him and he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.

These words cannot be the fatalistic end of the story. There has to be more. There has to be hope for a future. Then we hear the reminder… “Chazak! Chazak! Venitchazeik!” Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened! They are followed with the words of Shemot…

And these are the names of the Children of Israel who were coming into Egypt…The Children of Israel were fruitful, teemed, increased and became strong—very much so; and the land became filled with them.

Did you hear that? They “teemed, increased and became strong—very much so.” The death of Joseph wasn’t an end, but a beginning. It wasn’t the end of the story. On the contrary, it only set the stage for the greater story—a story of signs & wonders, devotion, love and redemption.

Maybe there has been tragedy or unfortunate circumstances in your life recently. It’s not the end. There is a vav if we continue reading. Just as the Children of Israel were at a point of hopelessness at the passing of Joseph (the one that led us into the country!), a vav was waiting for them just ahead. We all have a vav waiting on us if we stand firm.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4

Always remember—Mashiach is the vav connecting us to Israel. Torah is the vav connecting us to Hashem. If you are in a difficult place, remember the words “Chazak! Chazak! Venitchazeik!” and hang on to your vavs.