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God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites to donate materials and to make a sanctuary – a Mishkan – in order that God may dwell amongst the people as they journey. The parasha then outlines extensive details about how the Mishkan is to be built.

Another voice

Terumah by Fiona Brodie :: 5769

Fiona is the newly appointed Chair of Limmud Scotland, with which she has had a long association (breaking news – the next Limmud Scotland Day will be on 14th February 2010), and presented at last year's Conference and Fest, in conjunction with Tzedek, about volunteering abroad, having recently returned from 18 months of world travel and volunteering with her husband Howard.

It's been a rattling good yarn so far. We've been witness to the grand sweep of history from creation through flood, famine, slavery and bloodcurdling plagues to miraculous escape into the wilderness, with sibling rivalry and many an inspirational episode of divine revelation along the way. The central and supreme revelation of the Ten Commandments is fresh in our minds, overlaid with the moral, religious and civil principles set out in Mishpatim - and now? The next exciting episode is a construction manual?

During forty long days and nights on the summit of Mount Sinai, Moses is on the receiving end of a tediously long list of instructions. "How to Build the Mishkan, A DIY Guide to Tabernacle Construction" - the technical language is hard to take in. What happened to the flow of the narrative and the high principles? What is this all about?

Well, in amongst the stupefying detail is one quite simple but extraordinary idea – the children of Israel are being asked to "make Me this sanctuary so that I may dwell among them". There’s been much speculation over the ages as to why the Infinite would be seeking a finite abode and much is made, too, of the use of the words "among them" rather than "in it". What’s more, God is asking for the building materials as gifts, when everything in creation is surely His already. This begins to look more interesting than one might have thought at first glance! It could have the makings of a little psychological drama perhaps?

Could it be that this episode comes not out of God's desire to live among humankind but from an understanding of our emotional needs? We're being given a sense of focus, something to work for, a purpose for all our newly won wealth and freedom, a creation to be proud of. It's going to take a fantastic amount of effort but what value we'll place on it – a value worth more than the mere sum of all its parts. It's crucially important to remember, of course, that this is not to be a monument which is built and then walked away from. It's not the site or the structure itself that counts but its vital spiritual significance, the effort we put into it and the fact that we’ll carry it on with us as a tangible memento of the moment of revelation, even when Sinai is long out of sight. There is another crucial factor too, and that's the necessity of acting together. The creation of the Tabernacle cannot be achieved by any individual working alone.

On reflection, this could all be seen as not so much a construction manual as a blueprint for survival. We may have been given a pattern not only for the Tabernacle but also for the whole enterprise of building a meaningful life. For us, it's not the devil that's in the detail, as the old saying goes – it's God. Our success can be measured in our ability to work through the details together to make a space for the divine at the heart of our communal life, not dependent on any one building or place but on our collective capacity to carry our precious beliefs and principles with us, whichever wilderness we happen to find ourselves in. It was pretty exciting stuff after all!


More by Fiona Brodie

Another voice by Steve Kay Kupietzky

Parshat Terumah states: "And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them." God is telling Bnei Yisrael that a Mishkan, a special sanctuary needs to be built, so that the Jewish people could get closer to God as a community.

The way that the Jewish people could come together and get closer to God, was if everyone contributed to this task of building the Mishkan, in one fashion or another. Did the Mishkan really have to be built for the people to get closer to God? Certainly, the people were able to get close to God on Har Sinai, when accepting the Ten Commandments, so why did God want them to build this Mishkan? Surely God did not need a Mishkan to get close to his people?

I think that God wanted the Jewish People to build the Mishkan not only so "he could dwell among them", but in building the Mishkan, God knew that this would also build the Jewish people into a community, into one big close-knit family through working together on this project to build the Mishkan. Since everyone would contribute in some way, it brought people together for a common goal and in turn created the separate tribes into a one community and one people.

So to as we build Limmud, we come together as one community and one Limmud Family even though we may come from different backgrounds, and even different countries. Together, we need to contribute to building this project called Limmud, just as the Jewish people all contributed to the building of the Mishkan.

Each and every one of us has a role to play in forming our Limmud community. And whether you bring "Gold, Silver or Brass" or you bring "fine linen" or "spices or oil or acacia-wood" or just one's expertise and skill, when we all work together, a Jewish community is formed. And it is in this Jewish community where surely God will want to dwell amongst us as he did in the Mishkan.


More by Steve Kay Kupietzky

Other Divrei Torah on Terumah

  • 5766 (Clive Lawton)
  • 5766 (Joel Grishaver)
  • 5767 (Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz)
  • 5767 (Taste of Limmud Team)
  • 5768 (Eliot Kaye)
  • 5768 (Taste of Limmud Team)
  • 5770 (Samuel Klein)
  • 5771 (Adam Overlander-Kaye)
  • 5771 (Jacqueline Nicholls)
  • 5772 (Dina Pinner)
  • 5773 (Shaiya Rothberg)
  • 5773 (Daniel Vulkan)
  • 5774 (Tzemah Yoreh)
  • 5775 (Jeremy Tabick)
  • 5775 (Daniel Lichman)