Terumah 8 Adar 5781
This week’s parashah is called Terumah – Contribution. It begins with God telling Moses: “Speak to the people of Israel, that they bring me an offering; from every man that gives it willingly with his heart, you shall take my offering.’ Everything the people brought to Moses was from what they had already received from the Egyptians. We might say that the gifts from the Egyptians were like wedding presents, for the process of the marriage between God and His people Israel had begun. We might also say that we certainly earned it for all the hard work we had done throughout our many years of slavery. But now the Creator was showing us that we were no longer slaves, we were free to give. It isn’t always easy for us to give away things that what we have worked so hard for. But what did we do when Moses told us to take an offering to him with a willing heart? Later we read that we brought so much that he had to tell us to stop. Perhaps it was because we were still on our spiritual or honeymoon high from our experience with God at Mt. Sinai.
We, my people learned to become big givers from those days…it was instilled in us from our very beginnings. Terumah teaches us that there is great joy in giving. We would all have the honor of taking our part in the building of the Mishkan where we would go to meet with our God. The finest of materials were used, from the most expensive like gold to the least – bronze. The gifts we brought from Egypt were used to build the house where God would dwell among us. The emphasis here is on בְּתוֹכָם bitocham. He said in Exodus 25: 8 וְעָשׂוּ לִי, מִקְדָּשׁ; וְשָׁכַנְתִּי, בְּתוֹכָם. “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them”. He still dwells among us today.
As I read about all that went into in the building of the Mishkan, I thought, “wow Moses was learning to become an architect and an engineer”. He was shown the design on Mt. Sinai but would now have to take what he had seen and have it formed into something tangible. Although it goes into quite a bit of detail, much would be left up to their own imagination. With their God-given gifts, men like Aholiav and Betzalel would use their instinctive skill together with guidance from Moses to complete quite an elaborate place of worship on the inside, while the outside was not so attractive. God gives us room to use our creativity in our service to Him. You and I make up the Mishkan today. We may not always look so attractive on the outside but when our light shines from within it can be seen by those on the outside. Rabbi Yeshua told us not to hide our light but to let it be seen on the hill. How do we do that today? It all begins with trust.
Giving from the heart is a trust issue and is the greatest state of being we can ever attain. We read in Exodus 16 about those who didn’t trust that God would provide manna for them on Shabbat as He had promised, so they disobeyed Moses and went out to look for it. God was not pleased with this behaviour, especially because they had witnessed all that He had already done for them. We all know that trust can only develop after many years of being in a relationship with someone and watching their behaviour. If they continue to keep their word, we slowly learn that we can trust them. Once that trust is broken however, it is almost impossible to get it back. The Bore Olam has shown over and over that we can trust Him. Do you believe that God opened your eyes? That’s the Hebrew way of being saved. It means He opened blind eyes so that we could discern between truth and lies. He said, I offer you today both life and death, I ask you to choose life. He gave us free will to choose, to make decisions, to be responsible, to hope, to admit what we do and be humble enough to seek advice, to follow and to lead, to say yes to life and not to give in to fear, and to build the community where he would dwell among us.
We read about the construction of the Ark which would carry within it the Ten Commandments. There was gold everywhere, inside and out, to show us their immense value and importance. They were guarded by two golden Keruvim with huge wings, a beautiful picture of God’s shelter and protection. In verse 22, it says, “And there I will meet with you, and I will talk with you from above the cover, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the Testimony of all things which I will give you in commandment to the people of Israel.” What a mystical experience!
I remember finding a poem written by my father many years after he had passed away. It was such a precious moment for me as I held it in my hands and read it. I felt as if I was holding something from him that was almost sacred. Imagine holding in our hands and reading the letters written by Moses. That’s what we do every week when we read the Ten Commandments. These tablets were placed within that Ark to be carried wherever we went, and we still have them 4000 years later. Do you think they stood the test of time?
So how do we apply this parashah to our lives today. Over the years I have learned that the more I give, the more I receive. The more I give, it seems the more I want give. It’s not only giving the monetary first fruits of my labor but also my time. Time is often harder to give but I’ve noticed over the years that when you want to get something done, always give it to busiest person and especially to the one who loves what he does. God simply loves a cheerful giver and when I put Him first, He always protects me, frees me, heals me, comforts me, whatever I’m going through, whatever I need. I lack for no good thing. One of my favorite sayings of Rabbi Yeshua comes from Matthew 6: verses 19 and following: ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and woodworm destroy them and thieves can break in and steal.20 But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworm destroys them and thieves cannot break in and steal.21 For wherever your treasure is, there will your heart be too. … 24 ‘No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money. You can read the rest yourselves. These verses sustained me as I was rebuilding my life which had been devastated. But the God of beginning again rebuilds our lives, He restores the years the locusts have eaten. My life is living proof of that.
Before I end, I just want to say something about the haftarah portion this week in 1 Samuel because it is preparing us for Purim next week. In this community where our values are in stark contrast with those taught in the world today, we are to take care of each other, and especially the weakest among us. Darwin’s theory, the survival of the fittest is one of the lies propagated by the world and is the spirit that is so active today. The Torah teaches us to prepare ourselves to be like soldiers, strong and courageous so that we can protect the weakest among us. Rhonda again chose a great verse for this week’s bulletin… it says, “blessed be the Lord our God who trains our hands for war”. We have been at war since we left Egypt. After the battle with Pharaoh won by our God, we were attacked by the Amalekites, a cursed race, because they went after the weakest. They lay in ambush and attacked Israel from the rear where women, children, elderly and the infirm were. Because King Saul didn’t obey God when he was told to destroy all remnants of Amalek including the animals, we would have to experience the horror of Haman, 500 years later. King Saul also chose to destroy the weakest and save the strongest and best in the guise of using them as offerings for God. This is where we hear that God prefers our obedience to our sacrifice.
I don’t believe that we need to build a large elaborate synagogue, rather we need a body of believers who trusts in their Creator and obeys Him. We shine from within as He slowly changes us, from inside out, like the Mishkan in the desert. He protects us under the covering of His wings as depicted by the Cherubim. We are a remnant of warriors. We have each been gifted with treasures which we are to share in building our community. The more we give, the more God blesses us, both individually and as a community. Everything that our God has gifted us with is to use within community. He didn’t want us to be lone wolves. His very name ECHAD depicts unity (not uniformity) while the world creates disunity…divide to conquer. Let us not be like King Saul who said, “the LORD your God”; rather let’s know that He is the LORD our GOD.