Veasu li mikdashveshachanti betocham And they shall make Me a sanctuary, and I shall dwell among them. 

The narrative portion of the Torah has been put on hold. We read about the Creation of the world, and about lives of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov and their families. We read about the slavery and Exodus from Egypt. We have read about the revelation at Sinai. Last week, we read about most of the civil laws and laws of interpersonal ethics that the Torah dictates. Laws of property and damages were given in detail. Broad moral statements, such as the reminder that we know the heart of the foreigner, as we were foreigners in Egypt, are given in single sentences, as are various commandments to serve God in purely ritual or spiritual ways. Now, in Terumah, the Torah begins to focus on ritual service of God in detail.  

All of Israel are to bring the materials from which the mishkan, the portable Temple, will be built. Everyone’s efforts and everyone’s contributions help to build it. In today’s Judaism, the relevance are both symbolic and halachic. Symbolically, a thriving Jewish community depends on everyone’s contributions of time and engagement. The community is a community when enough people appear at times when people are meant to come together. Halachically, the acts involved in building the mishkan are the basis for the thirty-nine melachot, the categories of acts that are considered forbidden as “labor” on Shabbat. 

Retelling the building of the mishkan serves another function. It is a counter-example to the Tower of Babel. The human community came together to build a tower into the sky. God thwarted that effort because it was a fundamentally self-congratulatory project. Humanity meant to rival God by building a monument to itself that would reach the heavens, and make a lasting name for the people who built it.  

The mishkan, by contrast, is a monument to the One who spoke the world into being. While the Tower of Babel was a monument to arrogance, the mishkan was meant to inspire awe and humility. The Tower inspired people to measure and evaluate themselves by their “greatness” as opposed to the greatness of others; their social stature, their physical might. The mishkan inspired people to measure themselves by how committed they were to God and to mitzvot. The Tower was impressive because of its physical height; the mishkan because of its holiness.  

When we value social standing, we are prone to self-doubt and to devaluing others. When we value holiness, we measure ourselves by a genuine care for the good that we do and bring to others, and we are more likely to see the value of the people around us. 

Shabbat Shalom! 

Comments are closed.


Visit the
Shaarey Tphiloh Facebook Page

ST Facebook image link

Upcoming Events