Weekly Torah Commentary — Terumah February 24, 2012

In this week’s Torah reading, Hashem begins to instruct Moshe on the building of the Tabernacle. We don’t have to read far into the parsha to notice a marked emphasis on details – very specific details.

Some commentators have at times given the impression of being a bit bogged down with the specificity of each verse, wondering at its relevance today when compared with some of the more dramatic narratives of the Torah.

Traditionally, we are told, the details of the building of the Tabernacle mirror the details of Creation. Modern science has proven that the mathematical precision inherent in creation is absolutely essential to the ongoing functioning of this universe as we know it. Very precise details do in fact matter greatly to our Creator.

But let’s go back for a moment to the giving of the Torah at Sinai. It was Hashem’s original intent that Israel as a people would be a living Tabernacle of His presence in the earth; that as we fulfilled our declaration, “We will do and we will hear”, that the nations would see and know Almighty G-d through us.

Tragically, our ancestors fell all too soon from their exalted spiritual position at Sinai demonstrated by the event of the Golden Calf. It became glaringly apparent that the children of Israel needed a visible, tangible example before their eyes of the essence of their calling as a nation. That visible, tangible example was the Tabernacle.

Hashem instructed Moshe to “build a Sanctuary for Me…”, a place where His glory could be manifest and expressed, a place that would stand at the very center of the Tribes of Israel day and night, that would travel with them and would continually remind them that just as the Tabernacle was brilliant with His presence in a barren place, so, too, Israel’s calling is to be a bright and enduring spiritual Light to the Nations in every generation.

Building a life that reflects Hashem’s goodness and love requires every bit as much attention to detail as building a home…or building the Tabernacle.

There is a vast difference between building a house and building a home. While it is a given that construction of a house is a process including myriads of small and large details, building a home is an even greater challenge. I have seen, as have you, some beautiful homes designed and built by fine construction companies which nevertheless stand empty, for no one lives there.

Building a home requires not just the physical structure but very specific qualities in the values, attitudes and behaviors of the human beings that live within that structure. And herein is the secret of the Tabernacle.

Each detail outlined in this week’s parsha contains within it a dimension of holy living designed to speak to every generation of Jews about how we — individually and corporately — become a living Tabernacle of the presence of Hashem in this world. Let’s take just one example – the Menorah.

Formed from one solid piece of gold, it was fashioned very specifically to give maximum light. It is beyond the scope of a brief commentary like this one to elaborate on every detail but suffice it to say that the type of ‘LIGHT’ that we are called to share with the rest of the world is seven-fold, just as the Menorah had seven branches: the light of truth, the light of peace, the light of joy in serving Hashem, the light of wisdom, the light of Torah, the light of Hashem’s love. When you and I walk through life according to Hashem’s truth, in tune with His Torah, implementing the wisdom we have learned from the Torah into our decisions and actions, at peace with Hashem and with those around us, allowing the joy of serving Him to spread to others, we become progressively a brighter and brigher living Menorah, giving light to the world.

This is but a small and simple example of the deep truths contained in this parsha and I encourage you, I urge you to seek out through prayer, meditation and study the awesome life lessons embedded in the verses of Terumah.

In tune with Torah this week = renewing my personal commitment to be a living Tabernacle of His presence and seeking new ways to express that reality through my daily life.

Shabbat Shalom

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