Thoughts on Terumah

canstockphoto3712801This week’s parasha is Terumah, Exodus 25.1 – 27.19[i] which begins, Tell Bnei-Yisrael to take up an offering for Me. From anyone whose heart compels him you are to take My offering (25.1). Last week, Shabbat Shekalim (Exodus 30.11-16) Israel was commanded to present the offering of Adonai (30.15) for the service of the Tent of Meeting (30.16). The difference here is “have to” verses “get to” as one’s heart compels them. Another correlation is that the offering collected in Exodus 30 was to be for the service of the Tent of Meeting, whereas this collection was to actually build the Tent of Meeting as it is written,

Have them make a Sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them. You are to make it all precisely according to everything that I show you—the pattern of the Tabernacle and the pattern of all the furnishings within—just so you must make it. (Exodus 25.8-9)

The next ninety-six verses describe in intricate detail the design and function of items and instruments to be made for the dwelling place of HaShem. But there are a couple of intermissions in the form of divine reminders,

See that you make them according to their pattern being shown to you on the mountain. (Exodus 25.40; cf. 26.30 and 27.8)

Do we see the pattern here? (No pun intended.) The Terumah was free will; one was to give as compelled in their heart. However, the work itself was to be done according to specific design, paying attention to each and every detail according to God’s plan not man’s. Here is another question, in light of the words of HaShem recorded by Isaiah, why build the Mishkan at all?

Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where then is the House you would build for Me? Where is the place of My rest? (Isaiah 66.1)

King Solomon, as he dedicated the First Temple, expresses a similar sentiment to the Lord when he states,

So will God really dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You! How much less this House that I have built! (1 Kings 8.27)

The 15th century Jewish philosopher, statesman, and Bible commentator Abravanel noted that “The Divine intention behind the construction of the Tabernacle was to combat the idea that God had forsaken the earth, and that His throne was in heaven, remote from humankind. To disabuse them of this erroneous belief, He commanded them to make a Tabernacle, as if to imply that He dwelt in their midst…”[ii]

Toward the end of the desert wandering, Israel was told, you are to seek only the place Adonai your God chooses from all your tribes to put His Name to dwell—there you will come (Deuteronomy 12.5). This week’s Haftarah, I Kings 5.26 – 6.13, records the realization of the culmination of that word in the completion of the building the first Temple. This time, the pattern was King Solomon’s choosing, and the cost and labor was conscripted. In the end however, HaShem made a promise to Solomon.

“As for this House which you are building, if you will walk in My statutes, execute My ordinances and keep all My mitzvot by walking in them, then I will establish My word with you, which I spoke to your father David,  I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.” (I Kings 6.12-13)

In this caution, HaShem warns Solomon that this Temple was only a reflection of the spiritual condition of the people of Israel. When they walked after Him, He would dwell in their midst. If, however, they choose not to walk in the way of Adonai, then judgment would soon come.

Both in the wilderness and well as in the land, the Lord’s intention was to dwell with His people. While Adam and Chava may have forfeited that opportunity in the Garden, HaShem already had a plan for restoring all of humankind to Himself. Part of the fulfillment of this plan occurred when HaShem took up residence among His people Israel. But as we saw in Parashat Yithro, this people were called and set apart to be “a kingdom of kohanim” (Exodus 19.6) or as Rashi noted, a kingdom of ministers,[iii] those who would shine a light in a dark world, bringing the revelation of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to a people who had lost their way. At times they were successful, at others they failed miserably like we all do. Finally, the Messiah, ben David became the ultimate visible expression of HaShem’s indwelling presence among His people, and by faith in Messiah Yeshua, among the nations of the world as well.

In this week’s Besorah reading, Luke 8:22–39, we read the account of Yeshua ministering light and life to the non-Jewish world as He casts the demons out of man living in the region of the Gerasenes on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee. Yeshua ministered the presence of Shekinah as He fulfilled the words of the prophet Isaiah,

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of Adonai’s favor… (Isaiah 61.1-2)

Today, you and I are His ministers; His hands reaching out to those in need and His feet going to those who have lost their way and need assistance to come back to the Way.

Shabbat Shalom

[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

[ii] Leibowitz, Nehama, New Studies in Shemot/Exodus II, Jerusalem, WZO, Dept. of Torah Education in the Diaspora, 2000, p 472.

[iii] Herczeg, Rabbi Yisrael Isser Zvi, The Torah: with Rashi’s Commentary, Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated, Brooklyn, Mesorah Publishers, Ltd., 1995, p 223.

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