Parshat Terumah

Torah Reading for Week of January 30 – February 5, 2011

“Abodes Upon Abodes; Lights Beyond Lights”

by Chava Lion, AJRCA First Year Rabbinic Student

Let’s look at Parshat Terumah in context. Clearly, it’s post-slavery/ liberation. According to Rashi, we come to it after the movement of Moses up-down the mountain, revelation, the breaking of the tablets, the golden calf, and movement up-down the mountain again. At the end of Mishpatim Moses is behar, literally in the mountain. In any case, why is this important? Because this is where we get the game-plan for the tabernacle, the blue-print…we get it from the space within the earth-core of a sacred mountain. The transmission (in other words) is from a solid place. It’s almost as if G-d is saying….from this earth, from your being, construct My sanctuary and I will dwell among you (25:8).

This is not an easy undertaking. In 1 Kings 5:27, the building of Solomon’s Temple (also an abode for Hashem) necessitates the toil of 30,000 men. Here, in Terumah, it seems a lot less taxing. We just need to do some raising up if the incentive is in our hearts.

Whatever the picture, it’s hard work. It’s hands-on. We need gold, silver, copper, ram’s skins, wool, red and blue dyes, the sewing of tapestry, stones, oil, rings, poles, beams, more gold, bowls, frames, plenty of measuring rods (please), acacia wood, loops, fasteners, discernment, sharp attention to detail, focus, persistence, organization, order; all these things that we must pull-up from within our beings. As Rabbi Arthur Green says in his translation of the Sfas Emes: In our soul we light a lamp for G-d, set a table, raise up an altar. And in a world that revolves around external influences… lightning-fast news flashes, billboards raised oh so high above the long slice of highway… we have that inner work cut out for us.

It’s exquisite work though. It begins at the inner chamber, the Ark. We then make the cover and the two cherubim. We allow a space between them from which G-d’s voice will be heard. We continue inside out until we get to the courtyard. This, according to Rabbi Yosi, though it contains only 100 by 50 cubits, can miraculously hold the entire Israelite people (Lev Rabbah 10:9). No doubt, this is a group project.

And it’s a worthwhile one. We yearn for this; for a place with boundaries that can contain the radiance of G-d, that can consolidate that fine un-earthly light, that can act as a sounding board for the tight vibrations of the holy so they can be heard and echoed in our midst, for a G-d abode that is protected, grounded yet transitory. Perhaps, given this world with golden calves everywhere, we yearn for ourselves.

This brings us to a quote from the Zohar: (There are) abodes upon abodes, lights beyond lights, diverging… (1:130a). In my opinion, here we have reflections among reflections like two mirrors facing each other, one above, one below. We have the tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple…and more. Sages like the Ramchal have compared the tabernacle to the future Temple, G-d’s creation in Genesis. And to us. So we also are a reflection of the tabernacle. We are the very tabernacle that we build. As individuals and as a community.

So, may we labor to raise up the elements from our blood, the sparks from our souls, the teachings from our sages, the exquisite order of our bone structure, the silent space from our human core, the song from our hearts. And may we merge these gifts and create ourselves anew. This way, despite the blur of past events and beyond our wildest mistakes, we can be tabernacle and temple. May we keep our eyes open to the phenomenal design of G-d’s creation, each pattern, each weave, each moment of melding gold, each word of Torah…so that G-d will dwell within us. With compassion, purpose and patience may we follow the blueprint and construct ourselves into one being… and rest in the light of Divine Love.

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