Torah Readings for Saturday, March 4, 2017
Terumah (Gifts, Portion, Donation or Contribution)25:1-27:19 Shemot (Exodus)
Terumah is the seventh sedrah in the Book of Shemot (Exodus). It takes its name from the seventh Hebrew word in the second sentence of the weekly reading. “Speak to the children of
them take for Me a portion (Terumah) from every man whose heart motivates him
you shall take My portion (Terumah).” According
to one commentary, the Hebrew word Terumah
lacks a true English equivalent. The
term is variously translated as “portion,” “gifts” or “heave-offering.” The word Terumah
has the same root as the word Hebrew Terumi which means noble, lofty or
distinguished. The word Terumah carries the connotation of
things that are set aside for “sacred use” or “for a higher purpose.” According to the Stone Commentary, the root
of Terumah is the Hebrew word “to uplift.”
Hence these gifts, portions or offerings were meant to uplift the giver
spiritually. In this manner the mundane
items of the material world would be infused with a sense of the spiritual
world, a concept we have discussed many times.
At one level, Terumah is the
most challenging sedrah we will encounter during the year. The sedrah contains no narrative advancing
the story of the Israelites. It provides
no compendium of commandments with obvious application in our modern world. Rather, it addresses something that seems
sterile and devoid of meaning in the 21st century. Merely reading and absorbing a text such as
this is difficult. Yet it is necessary
since it is every bit as much a part of the Torah as the Story of the Creation,
The Exodus, or the giving of the Ten Commandments. Israel
Terumah provides a detailed description for building the Tabernacle and the Ark. The Tabernacle was a temporary edifice that would be built one time and one time only. Yet the Tabernacle must have been of great importance since the description of it is given in great detail. The
would have a longer lifetime.
Eventually, it would be taken to Ark
by King David and placed in the Jerusalem . If one accepts this scenario, the First
Temple would have been
destroyed in 586 Ark BCE when the
Babylonians destroyed the . Over time, different commentators have
developed various lessons from the design and construction of these holy
edifices. For the modern reader, these
may be of more interest than the text itself.
But we must still acquaint ourselves with the actual reading. As with everything else in the Torah, God not
only commanded that the Tabernacle be built, He provided detailed plans for
it. This blueprint is in the Torah,
which means it is public knowledge. This
differs from the common practice of the time followed by other ancient
religions of keeping such information secret.
The Tabernacle is a rectangular structure divided into three parts - an Temple Outer Court, the Holy Place and the
Holy of Holies. The Stone Chumash
contains a sketch of the Mishkan (pg.463) as well as depictions of other items
described in Terumah. The Holy of Holies
contains the Ark of the Covenant in which the Stone Tablets are stored. The description of the and its function is one of the reasons
that some commentators think that Terumah is out of sequence from the point of
view of literary narrative. They contend
that the instructions contained in Terumah actually came after the episode of
the Golden Calf since that is when Moshe actually brought down the tablets from
the top of Ark .
Another reason for this contention has to do with answering the question
“Why build the Tabernacle in the first place?”
Once the Israelites had experienced the Revelation at Sinai, they were
going to leave the mountain and continue their journey to the Promised
Land. According to some, the Tabernacle
served as an on-going symbol of the Revelation at Sinai and the sense of
holiness the Israelites experienced there.
Since the whole universe belongs to God, He does not need a special
dwelling place. Rather, we need a
special place where we can feel the intensity of His holy presence. Mt. Sinai
The division of the Mishkan into three parts has been the source of many lessons about the relationship between God and man and about our spiritual development. Just as the Mishkan is divided into different parts of ascending Holiness, so do we experience God in ascending levels. Also, we experience Teshuvah or “Returning to God” in ascending levels, rather than all in one fell swoop. Last but not least, for those who are seeking to be more observant of the Commandments, the construction of the Mishkan provides a pattern of gradual approach as opposed to doing things all at once. In looking for a universal message from this sedrah, consider the concept of Terumah, the giving of gifts described in 25:2. The gifts are to be given willingly from the people to God. Furthermore, in giving these “gifts” to God, the Israelites are merely sharing a portion of the material bounty He has given us. In other words, all that we have belongs to God. Material items only have value to the extent that they are used for His purpose.
The divisions of the sedrah provided in Etz Hayim listed below are not the only ones possible, but they are broad and functional and they do bring order to what some find is a challenging and chaotic reading.
1. The directions for the
2. The Kapporet and the Cherubim (25:17-22).
3. The Table and Utensils (25:23-30).
4. The Seven-Branched Menorah (25:31-40).
5. The Four Layers of Covering for the Tabernacle (26:1-14).
6. The Acacia Wood Structure (26:15-30).
7. The Inner Curtain (26:31-35).
8. The Outer Curtain (26:36-37).
9. The Outer Altar (27:1-8).
10. The Enclosure of “Hatzer” (9-19).
95. The requirement that the people build a sanctuary for God (25:8).
96. The commandment to leave in their rings the poles supporting the
97. The requirement that the priests always display the Showbread at the sanctuary (25:30).
Biblical Literacy by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
The Placement of the Poles
“The poles shall remain in the rings of the
they shall not be removed from it”
(25:15). The Ark contained the tablets on which were
written the commandments (see 25:16).
The ancient Israelites were to leave the poles in the Ark so that the Ark would always be ready to go wherever and
whenever they went. For example, we know
from later Biblical entries that the Ark
was actually carried into battle. Today
we leave the poles in the rings of the Ark
at all times so that we will always remember to take the letter and the spirit
of the commandments into all aspects of our daily lives. Ark
A Chasidic View of Why We Study the Construction of the Tabernacle
“The Three Kinds of Terumah
Terumah means a contribution for sacred purposes, something which the Israelites gave for the building and maintenance of the Sanctuary; and our sedrah, in detailing the plans for its construction describes the form that these contributions should take. There were three kinds of Terumah:
1. Shekalim: the annual contribution of half-a-shekel that was to pay for the sacrifices;
2. The once-only payment of a half-a-shekel to provide for the sockets (Adanim) of the sanctuary;
3. The provision of the materials and the coverings of the Sanctuary, which again was a once-only contribution ceasing once it was built.
“The first in other words, was a perpetual offering, persisting all the while the Sanctuary and
existed, and still commemorated today in the donation of half of the common
unit of currency, before Purim. The
second and third, however were limited in time to the actual period of
“What interest, then, can they have for us today? The answer is the Torah is eternal, meaning that its every detail has some relevant implication for all Jews at all times. And especially so for the details of the Sanctuary, for we read of it, ‘And they shall make Me a Sanctuary, and I shall dwell in them,’ whose meaning is that G-d’s presence will rest not only in the Sanctuary itself but also in the heart of each Jew. Even if the physical building is destroyed, a Jew can construct his own sanctuary of the soul, as an inward correlate of the once-external place. And each detail of its construction will mirror the precise practical directives contained in this and the subsequent Sidrot.”
Modern Reminders of TerumahThe seven-branched menorah is a common motif in Jewish art, decoration and construction. Many synagogues use them in decorating their sanctuaries. In many homes, a seven-branched menorah is used for kindling the Shabbat lights. The
Where Does God Live?On the one hand we are taught that God is everywhere. Yet the TaNaCh describes two edifices which are to be His dwelling places - the Tabernacle in the Wilderness and the Temple in Jerusalem. This week’s portion reads, “And they shall make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” As the Shlah points out, the Hebrew word that is translated “among them” is בְּתוֹכָם or B’toe-cham which literally means “within them.” So the verse could read “And they shall make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell within them.” Yes, God lives in the entire universe. Yes, people can find God anywhere. But by building a special place where God “dwells” our thoughts and souls will be drawn more closely to Him. As we draw closer to Him, we will allow Him to dwell within our own personal sanctuary (think of the term “The Body is a
The Book: Kings is the Fourth Book in the second section of the TaNaCh (Bible). The division into Kings I and II is first found in the Septuagint. Kings covers the period of Jewish history stretching from the end of King David’s reign to the fall of
and the destruction of the Jerusalem . I Kings covers the period from the
death of David to the reign of Ahab and the fall of the House of Omri, these
being part of the royal houses of the First Temple Northern Kingdom.
The Message: Solomon is now King of Israel. God has granted him great wisdom. He has carried out David’s deathbed commands. He is firmly in control of the situation and is ready to rule in his own right. Solomon’s reign is marked by a massive amount of construction. It begins in this sedrah with the construction of the
at Temple . It will continue with the building of palaces
and the rebuilding of a variety of towns including Hazor, Meggido and Jerusalem . All three of these have been sites of great
archeological activity. The reading
opens with a statement relating to a treaty between King Solomon and his fellow
monarch King Hiram of Gezer . This is real history. Tyre
was a city-state on the Mediterranean coast, part of what would later be called
Tyre . Solomon sent large levies of workers, on a
rotating basis, to the Phoenicia . There they would quarry stone and chop down
cedars to be used in building the land
of King Hiram . The haftarah goes on to provide a description
of the three chambers of the Temple
including dimensions and furnishings.
The author stresses that only dressed stones were used so that no iron
instrument was used in Temple
in building the Jerusalem .
This is in keeping with the commandment
not to use an instrument of iron when building an altar. Iron was synonymous with weapons of war. You cannot build a House of Peace with
weapons of war. God has the last word on
the construction of the Temple . It will only be of value as long as the
people follow His rules and commandments. Temple
Theme-Link: The Sedrah describes the Tabernacle. The haftarah describes the building of the
Both are dwelling places for God, but that is where the similarity
stops. Terumah starts out with God
speaking. The people are to give
willingly for the construction of the Tabernacle. There is no levying of a tax to pay for the dwelling
place of the Lord. In the haftarah we do
not hear the voice of God speaking to the people, but we do hear the sound of
the taxman. “King Solomon imposed forced
labor on all Temple .” He taxed the people by requiring them to work
on the project one out of every three months until it was completed. The Tabernacle was a portable structure
designed only to be used in the Wilderness.
It was intended to help the people overcome the Sin of the Golden Calf
and help them take a sense of the Holy with them as they left Sinai and moved
toward Israel Canaan. The
was to be a permanent structure. From a
practical point of view, it was designed to replace all of the other cultic
centers that existed throughout the Promised Land. Furthermore, by building it at Temple , Solomon was
furthering attempts to strengthen the Davidic Dynasty. At least three times a year, people would come
from all over the kingdom to offer sacrifices at the Jerusalem .
In so doing, they would be reminded of the central role of Temple and the House
of David when it came to fulfilling the commandments of the Lord. We must not lose sight of the fact that in
building the Temple Solomon was fulfilling a prophecy that had been made to
David by Nathan i.e., that the son of David would build the Temple in
Jerusalem. All cynicism aside, the
building of the Jerusalem
was part of the Divine Plan. In the end,
neither the Tabernacle nor the Jerusalem
survived. However, the Tabernacle
provided us with a motif for spiritual survival after the exile. In effect, the Torah became our Tabernacle -
the portable spiritual home that reminds of the eternal presence of God. At the same time, the yearning for the
has animated the Jew for centuries.
Whether one is a secular Zionist or a bearded, black-coated Yeshiva
student (or someone in between), Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are the North
Star of our existence thanks in no small measure to the public works projects
of King Solomon. At the same time, the
current effort by one sect of Judaism to control the Temple Mount and the
Israeli government’s willingness to use its power to enforce their “rules”
should be something that would bother anybody who cares about the concept of
the whole house of Israel and the holiness of one of our holiest site. Temple
Hiram and Solomon were active trading partners. They built a fleet, which sailed down the
Aqaba, across the Red Sea and may
have even entered the Indian Ocean. They developed a thriving trade with other
parts of Asia and east Africa.
Apparently Hiram did better than Solomon
in their various trading relationships.
For in the end, Solomon was forced to cede a section of the Promised
Land along the coast near the city of
to Hiram. It is the only time that I
know of where Israelites were forced to become part of another kingdom by a
Jewish king. Interestingly enough,
Solomon is never reprimanded for doing this.
At the risk of mixing Torah with modern politics, it would seem that
those in Acco ,
who resist giving up any of the territory on the so-called Israel West
Bank, must have missed reading about King Solomon. Or are they going to accuse him of being a
foolish appeaser as well? As I have
said, the TaNaCh has survived because of its timeless quality.
Copyright; February 2017; Mitchell A Levin