January 28, 2023 |

My Weekly Drash (a mini D'var Torah) - Terumah

Parshah Terumah begins with God telling Moses, “Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts.” (Exod. 25:2). It’s an odd command. Even with the rest of the verse qualifying the “gifts” as being from everyone “whose heart so moves him” it seems strange. Perhaps it’s because “terumah” is being translated as “gifts” instead of “things set aside for sacred use.” If you look at all you have not as “mine” but “things from God over which I have temporary possession,” then God’s command to use a portion of those things for the construction of the Tabernacle makes a bit more sense. It provides a context that the translation “gifts” does not. The root of “terumah” means “to elevate,” and so what the Israelites were asked to do was take some of the things granted to them by God and “elevate” them for a higher purpose. Whether you want to see this as a free will offering or a voluntary tax, the point is clear: our success derives in part from God and from our community. There are no truly self-made men. In ways big and small we succeed through the help of forces beyond our control. Likewise it is our obligation to support the community and help others in return. Creating a “home” for God, whether ancient temple or modern synagogue, is a way of doing just that.

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Daniel M. Kimmel

Joined: October 2, 2007

Daniel M. Kimmel is a Boston area film critic, lecturer and author. He does these weekly mini-lessons for the Mishkan Tefila Brotherhood's newsletter. You are free to use them for similar purposes.

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