Parashat Terumah // “Gifts”

- ה א א -

How can the divine presence manifest among human beings? 

The Israelites are required to erect the divine Tabernacle through their own donations

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering…And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof. And the cherubims shall stretch forth theirwings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another” Exodus 25:19 – 20

  • God orders the Israelites to build the Tabernacle. Why does God need donations to build his Temple? The truth is, He doesn’t. His intention in taking this measure is to teach us about the importance of renouncing a portion of our belongings for the sake of othersor to sanctify it by contributing it to the Tabernacle. Donation is a means by which we can elevate a portion of our estate and set it beyond our ownership. Charity – whatever the amount – has the potential to elevate us. There is no obligation to give a certain sum. Each individual is called to contribute according to their resources. The Parasha is called “Terumah” – which literally means “contribution” (תרומה) but is related morphologically to the Hebrew verb לרומם (leromem; “to elevate”). A person can elevate themselves to higher spheres by cooperating and contributing to the construction of God’s earthly dwelling. 

Construction of the Tabernacle and menorah are symbols of human cooperation in God’s creation

“And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same. And six branches shall come out of the sides of it; three branches of the candlestick out of the one side, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side” Exodus 25:31 – 32

  • The opportunity to build the Tabernacle and menorah is a true divine gift. It allows us to become “colleagues” in God’s creation. When we co – create, we not only become involved in a task – but also responsible for it. This enables us to better appreciate God’s work.
  • The builder of the menorah is given the privilege to not only receive the light – but to also bring it and spread it to the world. By allowing us to take part in the creation of light, God teaches us a lesson about our own worth and abilities.

Pearls of Divine Wisdom: “Gifts”

  • The Tabernacle is in our hearts. The vessels carrying God’s lights are inside of us. Our mission is to find them and approach them. Only then can we receive God’s abundance. The Tabernacle is a vehicle – a physical means to establish contact with our Creator and a vessel to contain His light.
  • If we believe that we are already perfect and complete, there will be no room for God’s light. Only a truly humble person can access God’s blessings. Modesty and readiness are key for tapping into spiritual abundance.
  • The Tabernacle – with its scrupulous measures and arrangements – lives inside us. Underneath the chaos of our hearts, we can find structure. Our job is to identify it and immediately reveal it to others. We need each other in order to discover our inner Tabernacle together.
  • Altruism is a sublime value – and for that, we must be ready to give. God isn’t looking for the object of our donations, but rather our involvement. Only by giving up on something that is ours can we sanctify and elevate it. 
  • The words terumah (תרומה; “contribution” or “donation”) and meromem (מרומם, “elevating”) have a common Hebrew root (ר ו מ). Charity not only elevates us – it transforms us into partners in God’s creation.

Generosity is giving beyond the level of comfort, with an open heart and an open hand.