Torah Portion: T’rumah (Donation) Sh’mot Exodus 25-27
HafTorah: I Kings 5:26-6:13
This week we read the Torah section named T’rumah or donations in English. This portion begins with the instructions for gathering the materials and building the Mishkan/Tabernacle in the wilderness. An interesting fact, in the book of Sh’mot/Exodus 40 % of the book is talking about this process and the end results. That gives us some idea of the importance of what we read when we study the Mishkan.
I want to begin with a couple of Hebrew words and their meaning. Understanding these words will help all of us to better grasp what G-d is saying to us through this portion. Let’s begin with the word that is used for the title of this Portion, T’rumah, found in Exodus 25:2. Here we read about G-d speaking to Moses and instructing him to tell the people of Israel to bring an offering. It is also interesting when we think about it that up until this time the people had been on the receiving end of their relationship with G-d. He defeated the Egyptians for them, split the sea for them, delivered them, gave them food to eat and water to drink. But now the time has come for them to participate. This word, T’rumah, has, like many Hebrew words, more than one meaning. It means to donate, or to give an offering. It also means to lift up. So given those two meanings, we get a good idea of what G-d is saying. We are expected to participate with the Father. He does not need an offering, however we do When we give it lifts us up spiritually and in the physical world it lifts up others. Because of your gifts to Road to Zion we are able to send money every month to Israel. It goes toward helping Israelis in need, especially the Ethiopian Immigrants who have recently immigrated to Israel. Most of them came with few possessions and struggle to adapt to a new country. By our small gift they are lifted up both spiritually and physically, and we are as well.
So G-d, with this word, was giving the people the opportunity to give back for their own spiritual growth. Giving allows us to reach outside of ourselves to recognize that we have a responsibility greater than ourselves.
The other Hebrew word we will look at in this reading is the word translated as Tabernacle. This is the English word for Mishkan. This word is found in Sh’mot/Exodus 25:8-9. Verse 8 gives us a clue that this Tabernacle is going to be a temporary structure. In verse 8 we read the word Mikdash, which is the word that will be used for the Temple in Jerusalem. G-d was giving them a hint that there was going to be more than the desert they were presently traveling through. For us, each day is a step along the path G-d has for us, our journey is not over, we have more to do. G-d’s purpose in Mishkan and the Temple was that it would be a physical symbol of His presence. The word Mishkan means to dwell. Today in modern Hebrew its root is used to describe a neighbor or a neighborhood, the place we live, or where we identify with. Here G-d tells the people He will live among or in a deeper way, “in them.” When they feel alone or fearful they will know G-d is with them and in them.
What a blessing for us as we read this verse, G-d the L-rd, the Maker of Heaven and Earth is with us, in us and around us! The purpose of the Mishkan was to remind them that they were home, no matter their physical location, G-d was there.
In many ways our homes have taken on some of the characteristics of the Mishkan and later even the Temple. Things we do on Friday evening as the Shabbat begins are good reminders of who we are as a holy people. Think of this, each Friday evening when the wife lights the candles signifying the beginning of the Sabbath it reminds us of the priests first task each day of lighting the Menorah. When we recite the blessing over the wine each Shabbat evening it should remind us of the wine libations accompanying most sacrifices. We bless our children with the same words used by the priests to bless Israel. Maybe the dipping of the challah in salt is the most meaningful of all. It always reminds us of who we are, of G-d’s everlasting covenant with Israel and to those grafted in to the Jewish tree. (Romans 11)
G-d cannot be contained in a house I Kings 8:27, II Chronicles 2:6 and II Chronicles 6:18) The Mishkan, Temple was for us really not for Him. It reminds us that G-d is with, in, around us wherever we are. He is our next door neighbor.