Midreshet Amit


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Terumah and Giving

By: Sandy Perl

It is an important concept in Judaism that listening to God and following His will are more important than one’s own self-expression. Rabbi Yehuda Appel suggests that this is a reason why Torah study, through which we learn God's will, is viewed in a superior light to prayer, through which we express our own desires to God. Our accepting of the Torah is our listening to the thoughts of God. Our religion does not preach so much man finding God as God revealing Himself to man. That's why one of the greatest events in our history was Matan Torah, when God showed Himself to the entire Nation and let us know what He wants from us.

This week’s parsha, Parshat Terumah, describes the structure and design of the Mishkan, a portable sanctuary for the Torah and luchot. According to Rashi, Seforno, and other commentators, the Mishkan was given to us in response to the sin of the Golden Calf. Hashem saw we needed an outlet for sacrifices to him. God says to Moshe that this is a place for Him to dwell among His Chosen People, a place to remind us of God’s love for us, as well as a place for God to be with His people.

The parsha opens with God commanding the Jewish people to take a donation for the Mishkan. But shouldn’t it command the Jewish people to give a donation? The answer is that to give with pure intentions is also to take that good deed for eternity because of the reward and the positive feelings that it engenders. We learn that giving is the highest form of pleasure.

In the wording of the parsha, three times it says to take a contribution from the people; twice the implication is that this contribution is obligatory and one time it implies that it is dependent upon each person's individual desire to give. This, explains Rashi, indicates that there were three different categories of contribution. The obligatory obligations were for heavy materials for the walls and structure of the planks to hold the Mishkan up; not so glamorous. It was the ark and the real essence of the mishkan that were left for voluntary contributions. Why must that be?

Rabbi Yehoshua Berman suggests that it is similar to donations today. Donors are always willing to donate the shiny pretty façade of things: exteriors to libraries and study halls and synagogue buildings. It is the upkeep and maintenance and not so glamorous stuff for which donors are harder to find. But is these structural aspects that are of vital importance to a holy building. God is commanding us to focus on the internal matters rather than external distractions, and to realize that every aspect is important and holy.