Weekly Torah Commentary Terumah February 3, 2011

In this week’s parsha, Hashem gives to Moshe the instructions to build the Tabernacle in the wilderness.  His directions are intensely detailed and an in depth study of them fills more than a few volumes.  For our purposes this week, we will give our attention to the following.

“Let them make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell among them.  You must make the Tabernacle and all its furnishings according to the plan that I show you.”

It has been wisely said that it is just as important to notice what the Torah does not say as what it does say.  Therefore, we must take note that Hashem did not say, “Let them build a sanctuary where they will come to worship Me.”  He said, “Let them make Me a sanctuary…” The Mishkan (Tabernacle) was to be a dwelling place, a home on earth, for Hashem.  “Build Me a home…” could be an alternative rendition.

A friend of mine in Israel is about to begin building a new home.  She is intensely focused on every detail, minor and major, regarding its construction.  If I were to build a new home, I’m sure I would be as well.  Is it surprising, then, that Hashem would be intimately involved in every detail of the construction of the Mishkan?  Surely not.

The Sages have said that were it not for the sin of the Golden Calf, there may never have been a Mishkan because Hashem’s original intent was that the PEOPLE of Israel would be His Tabernacle — individually and corporately.  Had they lived up to that lofty calling, there would have been no need for a visible Tabernacle in the midst of the camp.  However, Hashem never intended that the Mishkan should be a substitute or a Plan B for His original desire that His people be living tabernacles of His presence — not at all.  The Mishkan was to serve as a reminder of their calling and an exhortation to every Jew in every generation to this very day that His pleasure is not in buildings of wood and stone, but in hearts of purity and love that create a Sanctuary for Him in the soul.  Living sanctuaries are what bring Him honor and delight.

The contributions which He mandated for the building of the Mishkan were to be given by “all those whose hearts motivate them to give.”  Only gifts that came from the heart could be used in the building of the Tabernacle.  This is an extremely important principle.

A living relationship with the Most High was never meant to be a matter of outward rules and regulations alone.  In fact, Hashem speaks out pretty strongly against certain religious observances that are performed ritually while the hearts of the people are not towards Him (Isaiah 58).

That which was to be used in building the Mishkan had to be given from the heart —  it still does.

Our calling as children of Israel has not changed.  We are chosen to be living sanctuaries of Hashem’s presence in this world, to be ‘a light to the nations’, to so live that those around us come to learn what Hashem is like by observing our life.  To achieve this lofty goal requires that our service to Him be comprised of that which truly comes from our heart.  Put simply, do what you do because you love Him and want your soul to be a ‘home’ on earth for His presence.  It is past time that we stop “doing” this or that just because it’s what we do — mindlessly, ritually, without heart involvement.

It is not enough to keep a Kosher home because everybody around me does, or because this is just what Jews do.  We keep a Kosher home because we want Hashem’s presence to fill this home and make it a place of blessing for all who enter it.

It is not enough to keep Shabbat because everybody around me does or because it’s just what we do.  We safeguard and honor Shabbat because we love Him and desire to partake in His holiness.

The same principle is to be applied to everything regarding our spiritual life that you and I may in reality be living Tabernacles of the Shechina (Hashem’s glorious presence).

In Tune with Torah this week = may our observance of Torah be truly a matter of the heart and soul, not a matter of mindless routine.


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