February 12-13, 2016 – 4 Adar 1 5776
Annual (Exodus 25:1-27:19): Etz Hayim p. 485; Hertz p. 326
Triennial (Exodus 26:31-27:19): Etz Hayim p. 495; Hertz p. 333
Haftarah (1 Kings 5:26-6:13): Etz Hayim, p. 500; Hertz p. 336
The Inner Sanctuary
By Yiscah Smith, CY Faculty
Before, during and after the periods of the two Holy Temples in Jerusalem, each individual Jew has been gifted to contain within oneself a personal and inner Sanctuary. Where is this based and what is required of one to access his/her personal Sanctuary and to encounter the Shechinah, the Divine Presence, within? Does this inner Sanctuary in fact advance a person’s closeness to G-d?
In this week’s Torah portion, Terumah, the Children of Israel receive the commandment to build the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, the portable sanctuary that was erected and then disassembled at each of the 42 encampments during the Children of Israel’s 40 year journey in the wilderness on their way to the Land of Israel. “Make for Me a mikdash (sanctuary), וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם – that I may dwell among them” (Ex. 25:8). The commandment clearly states to build one structure and yet the verse ends with HaShem stating that He will dwell among them. What does this mean? Part of the answer lies in another verse, “I shall dwell among the Children of Israel” (Ex. 29:45). This implies that G-d’s indwelling is not exclusive to only a physical structure, but somehow, applies also to the people.
The Italian commentator Rabbi Ovadiah ben Jacob Sforno (1475-1550) explains the word בְּתוֹכָם (“among”) as “within each and every individual Jew.” This is aligned with a teaching from the Midrash Tanchuma, that the reason for the creation of this world is that the Holy One, Blessed Be He, strongly desired a dwelling in the lower realm, in parallel with the one already existing in the upper realm. G-d built the dwelling in the upper world and invited the Jew in particular, and by extension, all of humankind, to build a home, a dwelling, for Him/Her in the lower realm.
The physical structures that we refer to as the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) are the physical dwellings that outwardly manifest and express the spiritual potential within each one of us as individuals. And what is that potential? To become karov, close to G-d. Hence the focus of activity in the physical Sanctuaries was to offer the korban. Korban is usually translated as “sacrifice,” but it is actually not that at all. In fact it derives from the word karov, close.
The service of the holy Priests on behalf of the nation of Israel was twofold: To create a home where the Shechinah, the Divine Presence, would be revealed and apparent and, simultaneously,to create the means by which the Jew could experience closeness to Her.
Likewise, this is how each individual can encounter the Shechinah, the Divine Presence, within oneself. In a sense each one of us becomes a holy Priest within our own inner Mikdash, sanctuary. The means by which we offer a korban in this personal spiritual dwelling is by dedicating our thoughts, speech and behavior to come closer to our Creator. And through this spiritual practice each of us has the potential not only to achieve an intimate encounter with the Shechinah, but also to become a dwelling-place for G-d, where the Shechinah is thus revealed. In this sense we truly can touch and embrace our own soul, that expression of G-dliness that resides within each of us and is always beckoning us to come closer and closer.
A Vort for Parashat Terumah
By Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, CY Faculty
Rashi says the bread that was to be constantly on the table in the Tabernacle was called lechem panim, the showbread (bread of display), “because it had ‘faces,’ panim” (25:30). Yitzchak Meir Alter, the first Gerer rebbe (19th Poland), said that in this bread every Jew could see a reflection not only of one’s face but also of one’s “inner being” (pnimi’ut) and level of faith. If one approached it with warmth and enthusiasm, the bread remained, miraculously, hot and fresh all week. But one who approached in a distant, skeptical manner did not feel the nes (the miracle) and for him the lechem was cold and stale.
By Vered Hollander-Goldfarb, CY Faculty
As Moshe is up on Mount Sinai receiving the Tablets, the exciting story of the Exodus pauses to focus on another story: The building of the Mishkan (literary ‘a dwelling place) – the Tabernacle. This week we get the instructions for making a portable temple.
You might find visual aids helpful to this learning. Look up ‘Tabernacle’ images on the internet.
1) The people are asked to donate. For who/what is the donation according to the beginning of 25:2? Does He need donations? What is the criterion for who can donate according to that verse? Who benefits from donating and donations? (Think of several answers here.)
2) What will be made out of all the donated materials (25:8)? What is the purpose of this structure? Do you think that this is for the benefit of God or of the people? Explain.
3) Chapter 25:10-39 contains the descriptions of 3 items that were kept inside the Mishkan (starting in vv.10, 23, 31). What are the items? Why do you think that the Torah opened with the interior content rather than with the structure itself?
4) What are the walls of the Mishkan made of (26:1-29)? Note that there are visible and invisible parts. What is the important aspect of each of these? Does the Torah start with description the visible or the invisible?
5) The Mishkan is impressive in its materials, yet portable. Why is each of these qualities important in the Mishkan? (You may also want to think about the messages of each of these qualities.)