Friday, 8 February 2019

The Importance of Terumah




Terumah, in Hebrew, means “contribution.” It is the name of this week’s Parashah (Torah portion).

Too often the word is translated to mean “donation.” That is NOT what the Torah meant and that is not what our sages intended it to be perceived as when they named this week’s Parashah after it.

Furthermore, according to Zohar, Vol. II, p. 147a, the term means “lifting up.”

What is the significance of these different definitions to one small word, the reader might ask.

The answer lies in the subject of this week’s Parashah. It provides the details surrounding the construction of Beit Hamikdash (the Tabernacle), G-d’s dwelling place among His People. “Then Have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. (Exodus 25:8).
Just as He created and defined the universe through a set of very strict laws, so does G-d provide a very well-crafted and carefully demarcated set of principles and patterns that include materials and exact measurements for the blueprint that will eventually materialize into His House. His instructions are very clear and for a reason.

This House will be built with the wisdom of the heart. That combined balance between mental and emotional intelligence is what will be the corner stone of Beit Hamikdash. Its construction and eventual structure will reflect the true nature of G-d. Though G-d can create a universe and a dwelling House among His People, both with set boundaries, He himself is limitless.


In other words, as we, Jews, know, G-d’s presence cannot be either confined to or openly manifest itself in our physical world. The intention, the nature and the purpose of the House G-d wishes the Yisraelits to build for Him can be found in Deuteronomy 12:22: “Then there shall be a place which the Lord, your G-d shall choose to cause His name to dwell there.” The name will be the essence of that House, we are told.

Some may stop and ask, why does G-d put forth so much detail when He describes what some may consider a very elaborate and complicated plan? The Yisraelites would surely have other issues to address when they come to Eretz Yisrael. They will have to run an orderly society. They will have to establish a proper judicial system, they will have to have a strong army, fight enemies (as their name Yisrael suggests) and many other matters. Surely, G-d could have built that House merely by speaking. After all, did He not create a whole universe purely by His exclamations?

And that is where the Terumah, contribution, comes into the picture.

G-d does not merely wish to have a House among the Yisraelites, a House that will bear His name. G-d wishes each and everyone of them to be part of this grand master plan. He asks every single member of their People to contribute, each in their own way, towards it. That way they will not be merely spectators, they will become part of it. They will help create it. Creators cannot separate themselves from their creation. This way, G-d wishes to ensure that He will not only dwell in His House but also in them, in their hearts and in their essence

That is why, I believe, the Zohar, as mentioned above, defines, Terumah also as “lifting up.” When G-d dwells in each and everyone of us, our soul is enriched by invisible wings which lift us and enables us to soar to blessed and blissful spheres which, in many cases, our daily burden bars us from reaching. It brings us closer and closer to what G-d has destined us to become “a Goy Kadosh,” “A Holy Nation.”

Shabbat Shalom


Saturday, 2 February 2019

Na'aseh V'Nishma







This week’s Parasha is Mishpatim. Am Yisrael is at the foot of Mount Sinai and is receiving G-d’s Laws.

I have been to Mount Sinai. I stood on top of it where Moshe received the Torah and where G-d revealed Himself to Am Yisrael. G-d did not appear to them in any shape or form, merely in a spectacular scene in the configuration of sounds, lights, torches and the reverberation of the Shofar. "וְכָל הָעָם רֹאִים אֶת הַקּוֹלֹת וְאֶת הַלַּפִּידִם וְאֵת קוֹל הַשֹּׁפָר וְאֶת הָהָר עָשֵׁן וַיַּרְא הָעָם וַיָּנֻעוּ וַיַּעַמְדוּ מֵרָחֹק" (Exodus, 20; 14).  This dazzling audio visual spectacle must have had a profound effect on those witnessing it for according to the Hebrew quote above, they “saw” the sounds. The root Re’eh, Reish Alef, Hey  ר,א,ה  also appears in the Tanach in the context  of “understand.” They internalized the divine message and acknowledged it by pledging, “Na’aseh Ve’nishma.” We shall do and we shall hear.

What a sight, what an emotional upheaval it must have been for those present. When I stood on top of that mountain and looked down at the valley underneath where all of Am Yisrael was gathered, I closed my eyes for a brief moment. I was one of them. I could feel the surge of their emotions, the quivering of the foundations of their being, their joy, their ecstasy and the reflection of awe in their eyes. I could feel the words and the sounds that they witnessed as they were being etched on the walls of their essence, an imprint that has been passed on to us, their descendants.
Standing there, I felt proud, very proud, for yet another reason.

The exact number of those that came out of Egypt is not clear. We do know, however, that there were at least 600,000 men among them. So one can safely surmise that there were at least 600,000 witnesses to what I described above, witnesses to their covenant with the G-d of Avraham, Yaakov and Yitzchak.


 Now, what other religion, especially among the monotheistic ones, can claim such a widespread testament to validate that experience? And we all know that there is credibility and authority in numbers. 

With all due respect to other religions where Divine revelation rendered itself to one individual, I am very glad that to our covenant there were so many witnesses! It certainly sends a strong message out.

And, as a Jew I am honoured to be one of its carriers.

Shabbat Shalom