Terumah 5758

Posted on March 23, 2011

by Josh Snyder

Hellooooooooo, USY! Josh Snyder, your International Rel/Ed V.P. here, ready to give you all the low-down on this week’s Torah Reading – Parshat T’rumah. T’rumah is an interesting sedra (another word for parsha) for those with a keen interest in architecture. It offers a full and complete description of how the Tent of theTabernacle should be built. The directions of HaShem goes down to the most minute detail, revealing how the covering of the Ark should be made – how the menorah should be fashioned. These details combine to form the ultimate place of worship to G-d, the Tent of the Tabernacle, with the Ark of the Covenant at the center (yes, just like in the Indiana Jones Movie).

However, perhaps the most important key to this elaborate design is in the second verse of the reading.

The verse reads: “Daber el B’nei Yisrael v’yikchu li trumah, me’et kol ish asher yidvenu libo, tikchu et t’rumati”.

Roughly, this translates to: “Speak unto the sons of Israel and take for me an offering, from each man that wishes you shall take my offering.”

However, if we look closely at the phrase “kol ish asher yidvenu libo”, we may translate it literally as ” each man whose heart moves him.” This gives new meaning to the verse, and to the Tabernacle as a whole.

You see, almost every time when HaShem asks for an offering in the Torah, we find that a specific measure is cited. For example, the reading on Rosh Chodesh (which we read on this past Friday and Saturday) specifies specific sacrifices (two cattle, one ram, seven one-year-old lambs, etc.).

(By the way, sorry to all you vegetarians out there). Ten percent of one’s crop was to be set aside as a tithe to bring as an offering to the Great Temple in later days.

This offering is strikingly different in that it is not specified. Why is this so? Rabbi Shimon gives his interpretation of “kol ish asher yidvenu libo”: ‘[It means] each one who asks to participate in the mitzvah and to participate in the work of the Holy One, Blessed be He. . . . It is only required of the man to participate in it as it is seen fit according to his ability. . .”.

Without the willingness of each individual to give, and the worth of each individual contribution, the Tabernacle would be worthless. The beauty of the intricate design is that it brings all of the individual contributions into a ‘makom kadosh’ – a holy place.

It is easy to state that much has changed since the days of Moshe Rabbenu (Moses, our Leader), and the Tent of the Tabernacle. There is no longer a central place for all Jews to pray. However, the example set by the Tabernacle has not gone all for naught. As Jews, we are still endowed with the power to create a ‘makom kadosh’. The only difference is the medium through which we apply this standard. The closest parallel we can draw is that of prayer.

Often in USY, the question is asked, “Why are prayers set? Why can’t everyone just pray on their own,as they see fit?” The answer comes from Parshat T’rumah.

Indeed, individuality is encouraged in prayer. Everyone who prays has to find their own spiritual niche to achieve ‘kavanah’ – divine meaning. The interpretation of Rabbi Shimon applies here as well: each person is required to partcipate according to his/her own ability. The ‘kavanah’ of each individual is therefore unique and special in its own right.

On the other hand, T’rumah also helps in detailing why prayers are fixing. It is only through exhaustive detail and divine inspiration that the Tabernacle can be created utilizing the individual contributions. Likewise, the exhaustive work which has been put into our prayers is the structure by which our individual ‘kavanot’ may be channeled into t’fillah. Thus, even today, we can see the worth of detail and structure in molding individual expression.

In closing, I would like you to remember that we are ‘Am echad, echad echad’ – One nation, each and every one of us. Never underrate the importance of the Jewish People to you, or the indispensability of yourself to the Jewish People. Thank you and Shabbat Shalom.