Sedra of the week: Terumah

Sedra of the week: Terumah

Rabbi Schiff looks ahead to the forthcoming portion of Torah on Shabbat

The account of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai changed the trajectory of Jewish destiny forever. Our ancestors were charged with a mission to make the world a Godly, moral and ethical place and to ensure that all future generations would continue this noble task.

This mission was to be fulfilled in two ways. First, to emulate Hashem and, second, to build a sacred space in this world where His presence could be felt.

This mishkan (dwelling place) was a portable structure that would accompany the Jewish people on their travels, reminding them of their experience at Mount Sinai until a permanent temple would be built in Jerusalem.

The opening lines of this week’s parsha, veyikchu li truma, are often translated as “and they shall give a donation for Me”. However, the word veyikchu actually means “to take”. One explanation of this usage is that when one gives to a worthy cause, they are the ultimate beneficiary as their lives are enhanced through this.

This idea is also reflected in the word venantu¸ “and they shall give”, which is the longest palindrome in the (Hebrew) Torah. Put simply, when we give, we actually receive in return.

Giving isn’t easy. In fact, in many cases, it’s not even natural. Babies and small children are inherently selfish and it is only as we mature that we become more aware of other people and their needs.

It is this awareness and ability to go against nature that enables us to build a dwelling place for Hashem in our hearts and in our society.

The mishkan, the most spiritually focused place on earth, was built from people giving of themselves and their resources. It is therefore not surprising at all that the mishkan was a place of miracles, because when we bend our nature, God bends His laws of nature towards us.

  • Rabbi Schiff is CEO of the Jewish Futures Trust
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