In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.
Joseph Shulam: An Invitation to Give 
I’m writing this while watching the snow falling on Jerusalem. Jerusalem dressed in white is a reminder of the bride dressed in white waiting for the bridegroom to come for the wedding. The reading this Shabbat is very special.
The Shabbat just prior to the feast of Purim is called the “Shabbat of Remembrance” (in Hebrew, Shabbat “Zachor”). The reason for this special reading is the command in the book of Esther and in the Torah to remember the Amalekites and what they did to Israel during their forty years of wandering in the Sinai wilderness on the way to the land of Canaan.
The Torah reading is from Exodus 25:1 – 27:19. From the prophets the reading is from 1 Kings 5:12 – 6:13, and the reading from the New Testament is from Hebrews 9:1-10. The special reading for Shabbat of Remembrance is from Deuteronomy 25:17-19.
“Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God. Therefore, it shall be, when the Lord your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.” – Deuteronomy 25:17-19 [NKJV]
This text is considered a command from God to all of the generations of the people of Israel. I think that it is a wonderful command. I realize that many Christians will think that it a terrible thing to remember something from that long ago. We are commanded to forgive and forget!
This is true, but we are to forgive and forget those who have stopped the terrorism and the hate and the bloodshed and have at least confessed that they did something that is wrong and bad. The best example of this that I still remember from the early 1950’s is when the Chancellor of West Germany, Konrad Adenauer, came to Jerusalem and addressed the Israeli Parliament (The Knesset) confessing and repenting in the name of the German nation for what Germany did in the Holocaust.
The repentance of Germany was accompanied by action. Diplomatic relations were established, the German Embassy was opened in Israel and an Israeli embassy was setup in Bonn. In spite of all of the terrible horrors that were perpetrated against the Jewish nation, forgiveness and reconciliation took place between Germany and Israel.
Amalek never stopped the hate and the desire to wipe out the Jewish nation and even in the Bible itself we find many hundreds years later, a descendent of Agog the king of Amalek, whom King Saul spared and Samuel came and delivered Agog from his head, and King Saul lost his crown and his kingship and the favor of the Lord, because he spared the Amalekite, and didn’t obey God’s command.
I can say this with confidence. The Jewish people have a good memory, especially when it comes to history. We remember our enemies and make sure that they don’t get a second chance to kill to terrorize and to damage our people. We also never forget those who blessed us and have done good to our people.
A good example of these two traits of our nation is the Yad Vashem Museum of the Holocaust in Jerusalem, and the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. In these museums there are memorials and documentation of the horrors of the Nazi holocaust, and in the same places there is a memorial and honor for the tens of thousands of Christians throughout Europe and even from Japan and China, who endangered themselves to save Jews from the hands of the Nazis and the death camps that were spread throughout Europe all the way deep into Eastern Europe. There is a tree planted for each one of the Gentiles who saved even one Jew, and many of these who are called “Righteous from among the Gentiles,” received a lifetime financial pension, besides the medal and the honor of a memorial in their name.
In the case of the Amalekites, we are actually commanded by God to remember and not to forget. I realize that this is an unusual command, but none the less it is a divine command that it is wise and right for us to remember the command and to remember the Amalekites who were so cruel and so hard on Israel during their forty years of wandering in the Sinai desert.
There are other things that are important in the Torah reading of this Shabbat. The name of the portion is called Parashat Terumah. This is from the beginning of the Torah reading:
“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering. And this is the offering which you shall take from them: gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate.’” – Exodus 25:1-7 [NKJV]
This text is the basic text that Paul is basing his command and request for the disciples of Yeshua in the diaspora (Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome) to make contributions for the saints in Jerusalem. All of Paul’s letters have the command and the encouragement to make collections and contributions.
In other words, the Apostle Paul is writing his letters to the churches to deal with problems and theological issues but also for fundraising. Each one of his letters has that element of fundraising, of giving “offerings” (“gifts, contributions, collection”).
Let me just give you a few examples of this because most Christians and even pastors don’t realize this and resort to going to the Old Testament and teach that Christians ought to be giving a “tithe” (10 percent of their income).
This teaching in Christianity is a part of the replacement theology of the Catholic Church. They rejected the Torah and the prophets, but they kept the 10 percent and demanded it from their parishioners with impunity. In some of the old Catholic churches in Europe, even in Finland, you see the paintings on the walls of the church where people who didn’t put the money in the collection bag would be hit on the head with the long wooden poll that held the bag at its end.
The teaching of giving by the apostles in the New Testament is based on this week’s Torah portion: “they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.”
“For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.” – Romans 15:26-27 [NKJV]
“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.” – 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 [NKJV]
“Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.” – 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 [NKJV]
These are just a few of the examples from the Apostle Paul’s letters where he encourages the churches to make a contribution (an offering) for the poor saints in Jerusalem. Paul bases his command and suggestion on this Shabbat’s Torah reading from Parashat Terumah.
Joseph Shulam: God Wants Our Gold 
The Torah reading this week is Parashat Terumah, Exodus 25:1 – 27: 29. Terumah means contribution! This is the one time per year that I teach about giving in the congregation in Jerusalem.
The operative word in this Torah portion is “gold”. So much gold is used in the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness of Sinai.
We must remember that this nation is a nation of slaves. The building of the Tabernacle was just a few months after they left Egypt. The were liberated from slavery only a very short time ago, and they have wandered in the Sinai desert for two months before they arrived at Mount Sinai, and received the Torah from the mouth of God.
Now, suddenly they are asked to build a Tabernacle, and everything in that portable temple would have to be donated. These slaves had nothing much before they left Egypt. They took from the Egyptians all the gold and silver, the expensive silk and leather, and precious stones.
I could say that the Israelites had the feeling that all that they took was not even a fair payment for the years of slavery that they were enslaved in Egypt. They, for the first time in the life time of that generation, felt that they now have something, at least a small egg nest of wealth. Here you have it now, and Moses and God are asking you to give it for the joint project of building a portable temple for God.
If I transpose this situation to us today? What do you think the response of the people be? In my lifetime I have had the privilege of knowing personally some of the best and most honest Christian fundraisers.
One of the very best was a dear woman, a widow, from Dallas, Texas. Her name is Frida Lindsey. She is the founder of Christ for the Nations in Dallas. This woman was, first of all, the paragon of honesty and dignity and true dedication to the memory of her dear husband Gordon Lindsey, and the education and equipping of young people to serve God and Yeshua the Messiah.
I have watched dear Sister Frida so many times raise funds for the school. If she had 50 people in the audience she would pray and set the goals to raise 50,000 dollars. At first, dear sister Frida would have the song leader sing the song, “Must I Go, and Empty-Handed?”
Sister Frida has gone to be with the Lord, and I have not heard anyone sing this song since the last time that I was with her. The next thing she would say is, “Are there here five people who would give 10,000 dollars each?” Normally there was at least one who would give 10,000 dollars.
Next she would say, “are there eight people who would give 5,000 each.” There would normally be two or three who would give 5,000 each.
Finally the last would be how many people can give 10 dollars or 5 dollars for the said project. In other words, Sister Frida, like Moses in the wilderness, would give everyone the honor and the opportunity to have a part in the project that she felt God wanted and blessed.
Everything in the Tabernacle built in the wilderness was a donation. It was a donation from people who were just delivered from slavery. It was a donation from people who for the first time in their lives had something valuable, some gold and silver, maybe a mink coat, maybe a silver spoon.
These same people were just out of the trauma of the building of the Golden Calf. There too they were asked to give gold, and women took their gold jewelry off their ears and necks and gave them to Aaron to make the Golden Calf.
Now, a second time in a very short period, they are asked to give more gold and more silver and precious stones to build the portable temple for the Lord. They gave so much that Moses had to stop them and say, “it is enough, stop giving!”
Now imagine that this was a church or a synagogue committee making the decisions and planning this Tabernacle! Here we go!
“Why do we have to cover this beautiful woodwork with gold!” “Why do we need to make the bases for the tentpoles from silver?” “There are so many beautiful stones here in the Sinai desert. We have green marbled stones from the copper mines of Bir Nasb. There are wonderful red granite stones. Why use Gold?”
Here is the answer that Moses would give to these people of the construction committee:
“Dear Brothers, you are all right, we could use the malachite (marbled green stone), we could use the red granite stones of the Sinai desert. But, we must do exactly what God said we ought to do. God said to make the ark of the covenant from acacia wood and cover it with gold.”
“Please, dear brothers, is God not the ultimate architect? Let us do what God commanded us to do in the way that He commanded us to do it. This is the right thing and the safe thing to do. Let us remember the God who promised and kept His promises.”
“He promised that we would leave Egypt with the wealth of Egypt in our possession. He kept His promise. He promised that we will be free from Egyptian slavery. Here we are now free at last! We stood on dry ground and saw our enemies drown in the sea!”
“Now you have seen and heard the voice of the Lord speak to you from the smoking and shaking mountain. You have heard God’s promises for our future! God’s track record is 100% success every time.”
“Take out your gold and your silver and cut the wood for the tentpoles. Lift that wood and bring the gold and silver and start building.”
This would be what I would imagine Moses saying to a committee that is struck with a cheap attitude and selfish greed! Remember the following Torah principle: God does not accept damaged sacrifices!
He wants your very best because He gave His very best, His Son Yeshua, for our transgressions, and by His stripes we were taken each out of our private Egypt.
You could say, that we have not yet arrived in the promised land of golden streets! You could also say, “I am marching to Zion, the beautiful, beautiful Zion…”
God knows everything about everyone of us humans. He knows the number of hairs on our head and the number of hairs we have lost in the wind!
He knew what these Israelites who left Egypt have in their pockets and under their sleeping bags. He would never ask what was impossible from them or from us! God would not give a hair brush to someone who has no hair at all, unless He would want this person without hair to help someone who has hair to brush and make himself look better.
These are the principles that we learn from this reading of the Torah. I embellished a little, but to put it simply: God said make it with gold. He gave the gold! He expected His people to use the gold and to make the instruments of worship in His Tabernacle with gold.
This principle, if you would put it to work, will help you prosper under the Lord’s blessing in this world and get the benefits for eternity.
Joseph Shulam: The True Meaning of Contribution 
The Torah Portion for this next Sabbath is named Terumah (which means contribution or donation) from Exodus 25:1 – 27:19. The reading from the prophets is from 1 Kings 4:26 – 6:13, and from the Gospel we will read Mark 12:35-44.
The very opening of this reading is already a very dramatic word:
“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.‘” – Exodus 25:1–2 [NKJV]
This is the Creator of the Universe speaking to the children of Israel, who had left Egypt and were delivered from slavery just two months prior.
They have not tilled a field, or planted a tree, or built a house. They have crossed the Red Sea on dry land without lifting a finger for themselves.
They have managed to murmur and complain and accuse Moses and God for taking them out of Egypt, and have wanted to return to Egypt.
Suddenly the Lord commands Moses to tell the children of Israel to bring Him an offering. This time it is not an “offering” of an animal on the altar.
This time the kind of offering that the children of Israel need to bring to the Lord is specified in verse 3: gold, silver, bronze, purple cloth, scarlet thread, fine linen, goats’ hair, ram skins dyed red, badger skins, acacia wood, oil for light, spices for the anointing oil, precious stones for Aaron’s breastplate and the like, etc.
The phrase in Exodus 25:1, “gives it willingly with his heart . . .” is the exact idea used in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians 9:7:
“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7 [NKJV]
This is not the tithing that was for the Levites and the priests, this is a special contribution for the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. This is a beginning of something totally new in the history of the Israelite faith.
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the fathers of our faith, did not have a holy place nor did they have a “temple” of any kind. They worshiped God anywhere and everywhere. They built altars and made offerings of animals anytime and in every place.
There was no religious “establishment” to administer their relationship with the Almighty. The only people who had temples to their gods were the idol-worshiping nations.
The children of Israel had just come out of Egypt. Egypt was full of the most magnificent temples to their gods. There were many gods in Egypt, and each one of their gods had his private temples and worship. Some of these temples, even some with traces from the time of Moses, are still standing and still magnificent.
Now, in the wilderness of Sinai, all of Israel is living in tents, they move according to the signal of the Lord – by day a cloud and by night a fire. There is nothing set in stone other than the Ten Commandments. Everything is makeshift and temporary.
And now a command comes from the Lord God of Israel to Moses : ask the people to bring an offering, a contribution of these precious materials, so that I can have a place inside of them – in their midst.
Here is the verse that is a key to so much of the most wonderful and complicated teachings in the whole Bible:
“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.” – Exodus 25:8–9 [NKJV]
The Hebrew is hard to translate properly. A literal translation would be, “make Me a temple and I will dwell inside of them.” The Christian translators could not get the point. They were used to church buildings, and temples, and cathedrals – the house of God was the building itself.
The prophets of Israel understood later on what God really meant by this promise in Exodus 25:8. This is how the prophets and the New Testament understood the role of the Tabernacle that Moses and Aaron built in the wilderness of Sinai:
“And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.’” – 2 Corinthians 6:16 [NKJV]
In the second part of this verse, Paul is fusing two texts: Leviticus 26:12 and Ezekiel 37:27 (the text from the vision of the valley of dry bones that come to life).
“I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.” – Leviticus 26:12 [NKJV]
“My tabernacle also shall be in them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” – Ezekiel 37:27 [NKJV]
The Lord’s intention was never to have a temple made with human hands. The Tabernacle that Moses and Aaron built was patterned after a heavenly Tabernacle that Moses saw when he was atop Mt. Sinai talking to the Lord for 40 days and nights.
The Apostle Paul states this clearly:
“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.” – Acts 17:24 [NKJV]
King Solomon, who built the first Temple made of stone in Jerusalem, dedicated the Temple. And this is what Solomon says on this issue:
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!” – 1 Kings 8:27 [NKJV]
Indeed, dear brothers and sisters, if we would learn from the Torah and from the Old Testament, I believe that we would have a much more biblical attitude towards the church buildings, and become more useful to our communities with the wealth and facilities that the Lord has given us.
This of course is true for our relatively new building in Jerusalem. We have learned our lesson, and now there is activity here every day: feeding the hungry and poor of Jerusalem, radio and video teachings, and publishing printed material that go around the world, and youth activities, women’s activities, community activities, and on and on!
Not that others don’t do the same. But even in the USA, most church buildings are used very sparingly. When I travel in the USA and pass some church buildings, most of the days of the week they are empty and locked up. At least Catholic churches are open most of the time, and there is at least some person inside to hear you and to talk to you!
In our congregation in Jerusalem, this Torah portion is the only time of the year that we talk about giving. In fact, this is what happens in most of the Jewish Synagogues around the world.
This topic is powerful and challenging, and therefore one time per year is enough to make just the right impression to those people who have a heart for the Lord, and His Kingdom and Kingship over their lives. As Paul and Moses said, the giving to the Lord has to come from our hearts. If it doesn’t, it is worthless for us in this life and especially in the life to come!
Daniel Stern: The Devil is in the Details 
Growing up in Israel, one of the things I remember from bible class during primary school is the teacher explaining that the Bible is a very condensed book and if it ever repeats something that is a clue to us to the significance of that matter.
The portion this week, Parashat Terumah (contribution) focuses in great detail on the materials that the people of Israel donated in order to build the Lord’s earthly dwelling place and the artifacts used in the service of the Lord and his dwellings such as the ark, the table, the altar, and the menorah. The list of acceptable items is long but particular, certain colors, certain animal skins, specific metals and gems and so forth.
“Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering…” – Exodus 25:2a [NIV]
Usually, contributions are given not demanded, how then do we explain the matter? One thought is that by giving a donation they are“taking” an eternal reward. Another idea is that by contributing to the dwelling place of the lord they are in a sense investing a part of themselves in it, creating a partnership with God, “gaining ownership” of it, like children building a treehouse feel strong feelings of possession and ownership, more so then if someone buys it for them.
Then comes over two chapters of precise instructions on each of the artifacts, the measurements the materials and so forth, it reads like a cross between a Lego manual and an IKEA instruction pamphlet. If we go back 30 years to my primary education Bible classes we see that the author of Exodus deems it extremely important to convey to us this information, or else the Bible which is so condensed wouldn’t “waste” two chapters on this and later in the Bible in 1 Kings chapters 5-7 we once again have three chapters describing King Solomon building the Temple.
We read in Acts, Hosea, Matthew and other places some more interesting things about the temple and the offerings.
“…the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands…” – Acts 7:48a [NIV]
“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” – Hosea 6:6 [NIV]
“…leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:24 [NIV]
If God doesn’t place value on the temple of the sacrifices then again we must ask why does the bible go into such detail about the construction? Why, if the temple and the sacrifices are not such a big deal to God, do we read so much about them? The truth is revealed in 1 Corinthians 6:19
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit…” – 1 Corinthians 6:19a [NIV]
If our bodies are the temple that would explain why the bible which clarifies to us that God doesn’t need an earthly dwelling still spends so much time going into detail because it is important! Because us giving our lives to God, living to glorify His name, living holy lives dedicated to observing His commandments.
As disciples of Yeshua part of our walk with the Lord is to spend time with Him, spend time studying His word in an attempt to understand His will for us. If the Bible goes into such detail about the construction of the Temple, yet tells us that the earthly temple is not important to God, and then goes on to tell us that we are the Lord’s temple, the lesson is that we must be just as meticulous and intentional about preparing ourselves to be the house of God, if it’s spiritual such as to be holy, be dedicated, study the word, or physical, such as try to live healthy and not harm ourselves. After all… our bodies are His temple.
Joseph Shulam: God Dwelling Inside Us 
We are reading from Exodus 25:1 – 27:19. The name of this Parasha is Terumah – Terumah means contribution or donation. The importance of this Torah portion is not the great details of the building of the tabernacle and all the furniture and tools that would be used in the Tabernacle.
My own amazement is from the zeal that the people of Israel had in building this tabernacle. The children of Israel in the wilderness get bad press. They are normally accused of horrible murmuring and complaining and even plain ungratefulness towards God and Moses. There is no doubt that there was murmuring and complaining, but there is also no doubt that, when the children of Israel did something either good or bad, they did it with gusto.
They gave generously to Aaron the high priest to build the Golden Calf, and now they give again with the same zeal for the building of the tabernacle. The giving was not prescribed, and there was no percentage numbered of how much each should give to the building of the tabernacle – they gave according to what they purposed in their hearts. Just the very same words that Paul used in 2 Corinthians 9:7:
“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
The phrase that Paul is using in this text in 2 Corinthians 9:7 is the exact phrase that is used in Exodus 25:2. Paul is not connecting the giving to the church with the tithing that was for the Levites and the priests who are serving in the Tabernacle. To do this would be a justification of replacement theology – which is the biggest lie in, and in direct opposition to, the scriptures both in the “old testament” and the “new testament”. The apostle Paul is urging the disciples of Yeshua in Corinth to give on a totally different basis.
The disciples are encouraged to give with three pre-conditions:
- As they have purposed in their hearts, i.e. as they have decided beforehand with sincerity of heart.
- Generously, because it is like a seed that is sown in the ground and the harvest is dependent on the amount of seed sown.
- With joy and gladness.
Another issue, that is carnal to our faith and to our understanding of God’s relationship to Israel and to the church, is the need for the collection. We must remember the words of Paul to the judges and philosophers in the Artophagous in Athens, Greece:
“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” – Acts 17:24–25 [NKJV]
King Solomon understood that even the Temple that he built in Jerusalem is not really the place of God’s dwelling:
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!” – 1 Kings 8:27 [NKJV]
The Hebrew text of Exodus 25:8:
“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in them.”
The translation in English reads “among them.” However, when seeing the words of King Solomon and the following texts we understand that the real purpose of the Lord was to dwell in the people.
“And I will dwell among [inside] the children of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.” – 1 Kings 6:13 [NKJV]
“‘Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst [inside you],’ says the Lord.” – Zechariah 2:10 [NKJV]
Of course, the text that Peter brings on the day of Pentecost from Joel is the prophetic promise that God will fill all with His Spirit and make everyone equal to the prophets who were filled with the Spirit of God and spoke and acted as extension of God’s Spirit on the Earth. The ultimate fulfillment of this is in the promises of God to Jeremiah in the context of the New Covenant:
“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” – Jeremiah 31:33 [NKJV]
Yehuda Bachana: The Power of Our Contribution 
Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.
I love Parashat Terumah because it speaks about the heart, about giving. It deals with the inner struggles that we all have between the desire to give and help, and the natural inclination towards selfishness, to care about the most important person in the world – “me”. It teaches the value of investment, of giving, and of creating. We learn that the Israelites gave a heartfelt contribution. They gave a lot more than was necessary, until Moses actually had to issue an order for them to stop giving. And as a result of this generosity, God came and dwelt among the people:
“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” – Exodus 25:8 [NIV]
And so it was! After the children of Israel completed the construction, God came down to the home that they built for Him:
“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” – Exodus 40:34,35 [NIV]
A Place of Generosity and Love
Legend has it that the location of the Temple, like the Tabernacle, is also connected with generosity and love. According to the story, two brothers worked in a field that they inherited. One brother was married with children while the other was single. The two brothers made sure to divide their harvest evenly, but every night each of them walked secretly towards his brother’s crop pile, in order to add to it.
The bachelor brother thought to himself: “My brother has a family. He has a wife and children to feed. But I’m a bachelor who can make do with little. That’s why he needs more of the crops than I do.” The married brother thought to himself: “I have children who can care for me when I grow old, while my brother has no family to look after him, there is no one to help him in old age. That’s why he needs more crops than I do.”
Every morning the brothers were surprised to see that, even though they had taken from their crops, their pile of grain remained intact. Every night the two brothers continued their secret generosity, until one night the brothers met on their way, with sacks of grain in their hands. The brothers dropped the sacks and hugged each other. That meeting place was chosen as the location for building the Temple.
The story is a beautiful story. We must see how we can give, not only to the Kingdom of Heaven and to God, but also within the home, to our families. Instead of asking, “What’s in it for me?” We should be asking, “What can I do to build the family and give to the family?” And from the family unit we move onwards, to how we can contribute as a family unit, how we can contribute as a community, and onwards…
Building the Tabernacle Means Building the People
Let’s go back to the building of the Tabernacle. There were a number of reasons for the construction of the Tabernacle. One of them was to unite the people in a common project, a national project. We have to remember that Pharaoh’s intention was to break the spirit of the people.
Now we have to rebuild the spirit of the people, to build mutual responsibility and cooperation, ending with something that is not only beautiful and glorious, but also has profound spiritual significance. Indeed, the building of the Tabernacle required the cooperation of the entire nation, everyone was invited to participate in any way, be it with assets or with skills. And even if you had none of those things, you were invited to go to Bezalel and learn a craft, for he was the one who had “the ability to teach others” (Exodus 35:34).
It was a privilege, not an obligation, to contribute. The entire nation responded. And the excitement, the activity, and the generosity accompanied the project until its successful completion. As we mentioned in the beginning, the people gave so much and did so much work that Moses had to issue an order to stop the contributions and the labor, because the people gave and did too much (Exodus 36:5-7).
God is Interested in the Smallest Details
Thanks to the contribution and the great work of the entire nation, everyone in the nation felt that the Tabernacle was their own, and that the successful completion was both a personal and a national achievement. According to this understanding, we can understand why so much of the Book of Exodus is devoted to a detailed description of each stage and detail in the construction of the Tabernacle. This was the greatest and most important project carried out by the people of Israel together, each and every detail was precious and important to them, and to God too.
Let’s see how God delves into the smallest details of the Tabernacle:
“Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim woven into them by a skilled worker. All the curtains are to be the same size—twenty-eight cubits long and four cubits wide. Join five of the curtains together, and do the same with the other five. Make loops of blue material along the edge of the end curtain in one set, and do the same with the end curtain in the other set. Make fifty loops on one curtain and fifty loops on the end curtain of the other set, with the loops opposite each other. Then make fifty gold clasps and use them to fasten the curtains together so that the tabernacle is a unit.” – Exodus 26:1-6 [NIV]
Look at the detailed description. God makes sure to detail the dimensions of the curtains, their quantity, their color, the materials for the loops, and the placement and material of each thread. Like in last week’s Torah portion, and throughout the Bible, God teaches Moses and us the subtleties of civil legal liability.
Suddenly we see that now God is interested in things like the compensation for a dog bite or the theft of a donkey. God is concerned with the quarrels of humans, even if they are over tiny sums. God takes interest in the width of the curtains of the Tabernacle, the materials they’re made of, and how many loops they have. Nothing is too small for God. The God who created the galaxy decided that this world was important to Him, so every leaf that blows in the wind and every grain of sand in the middle of the desert has meaning.
Yes, the Almighty God is interested in us, in the people He created in His image. Yeshua teaches and emphasizes this line of thinking. God notices the smallest details in our world, in our surroundings, and of course in our lives. I am sure that at times we have all felt lonely and small. Too small for God to take us seriously, too small for God to be distracted from leading the world to touch our little lives. The world is so big, and God is so great, who are we in His eyes? Dust?
In this week’s parasha, we see that God cares, and there is meaning even for the smallest loop. Yeshua adds and teaches us that God sees and counts everything:
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” – Luke 12:6,7 [NIV]
We are Equal Because We are Made in His Image
A forest is really just a tree and another tree and another tree, and humanity is a person and another person and another person. And our Father in Heaven cares for and counts the smallest details, like the hairs of our heads. And no one is marginal or unimportant, the Jewish Sages rightly say that every person is an entire world. The origin of the concept of the image of God is found in the Book of Genesis, it is described to us that man was created in the image and likeness of God. From here comes the concept of sanctifying life and the severe prohibition on shedding blood, for killing a person cancels out a life of divine meaning.
From this we also get the ideas of equality, liberty, and brotherhood amongst men. For all are created in the image of God. The Jewish Sages expressed this by saying that no one’s blood is redder than that of another, therefore it is not fitting for a person, as great as he may be, to cancel the existence of another for his own existence, or to rule over him. Rather, we are to treat one another with love, as a brotherhood. According to this perception, when one harms the other, physically or mentally, he does harm to the image of God. And those who despise a person, actually despise God reflected in them.
The Power of Our Contribution
The word “Terumah”, which is the title for our parasha, is Hebrew for “contribution”. Contribution is a great and important thing, because it brings a sense of belonging. It opens the heart and enhances emotion. Let’s put aside, for a moment, the idea in our minds of a magnificent tabernacle in the heart of the desert.
Let’s look at how the Tabernacle project is described in Scripture. It’s a poor people’s project. It’s a shaky desert hut – made of a patchwork of materials and products. But all of it together forms one large collective heart. The message of the meticulous detailing of the contributions is that the simplicity of the materials is actually the greatness of the Tabernacle. Our contribution connects us to each other and to God, and giving with all of our heart entitles us to the presence of God among us. Shabbat Shalom.