Parashat Terumah: Various Teachings From Netivyah Staff

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: The True Meaning of Contribution [2019]

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 [2019]

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 25:2
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 7:48
“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” – Hosea 6:6
“leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
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 6:19
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 [2017]

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:

  1. As they have purposed in their hearts, i.e. as they have decided before hand with sincerity of heart.
  2. Generously, because it is like a seed that is sown in the ground and the harvest is dependent on the amount of seed sown.
  3. 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

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 inside [among] the children of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.” – 1 Kings 6:13

See also:

“‘Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst [inside you],’ says the LORD.” – Zech. 2:10

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 [2018]

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. parashat-terumah Shabbat Shalom.

Click here to download a pdf version of this teaching.
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