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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.

Terumah by Dina Pinner :: 5772

Dina Pinner grew up in Palmers Green (N13) and has been living in Jerusalem for eleven years. She has a radio show and is a teacher, counsellor, graphologist and poet.

The Book of Shmot (Exodus) is always a slight let down after the emotional rollercoaster of distrust, intrigue and attempted fratricide and filicide that is the crazy families of Bereshit (Genesis). Luckily we have enslavement, plagues, sea splitting and then the Big Ten to keep us going, until suddenly we get to Truma and the Bible goes OCD on us.

Here we are presented with detail after detail of precisely what and how makes the Mishkan. Parashat Truma is the nightmare of any free flowing artiste, a seeming wasted opportunity of spiritual expression. Money is requested, creativity not. The Jewish people are to create a sacred space, an attempt at closeness to the Devine that was so fervently rejected at Sinai, yet there is no room for their input, no deviation allowed.

Today the devil is most definitely in the detail. As my late mother, Morah Pinner, often said, one must always be very careful when checking lettuce that one hasn’t missed the old person outside or next door struggling, in need of help. The more bothered by minutiae the community the more suspect they are to those not in it.

So why the need for such minute detailing? Maybe when building a sacred space the focus on size, colour, material, brings people down to earth, focuses one on the mission at hand. Here the builders are required to consider the importance of the instructions given, not their own ideas nor their own importance. Their ego, if you like, becomes irrelevant.

In giving these clear and present instructions there is no room for ego which so often, in fact almost inevitably, leads to competition. Here each person is simply following the Almighty Behest. So each structure is the best, each curtain the most beautiful.

Where each competes to have their contribution noticed, where communal affiliations are a one-upmanship of devotion, the space can be neither sacred nor safe.

Maybe specifics, while possibly reining in creativity, eliminate showing off. It is no ones and everyone’s pride.

We cannot talk about the Mishkan without mentioning the Cruvim (Cherubs) atop the ark, their function extensively discussed yet unclear. While always connected to the ark they ‘confront’, ‘face up to’ each other and in this they protect us.

Connectedness to the Devine and our history protects us yet confrontation appears to be an essential element too. We are invited to both confront one another and be protective.

The tradition urges us to believe that the Tabernacle is only ordered after the golden calf, a retrospective imposition as Gd realises that man (sic) needs something tangible to worship.

But in this reordering we might miss the importance of and emphasis on creating sacred, safe spaces for communal gathering whenever and wherever they and we are.

The Sages make much of the comparative reminiscent language used in the telling of the building the Tabernacle and the creation of the world.

When we build sacred space and the ego and competition are sublimated to the mission at hand, all are able to freely participate with devotion. When we also confront and protect ourselves and those in it with us, a world of possibilities is created and we and the community evolve.


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